Flying Blind Ch. 07byEvil Alpaca©
"Hey, you guys don't own the whole world," Heda said after Ed have given her a few choice words about ignoring him and the Council. "I am too behaving! Yeah, and how is that investigation going? No, that's not it. You just don't want to admit that I was right and . . . okay, so Madison was right. The blind girl saw something no one else did and . . . Okay, that was uncalled for. You've never been disrespectful to Madison and . . . Hey! You don't need to be disrespectful to me either. Ungrateful prick! Sorry Ed, but we're getting ready to go through a tunnel. You're breaking up --" she said, then hung up the call and turned off her phone.
"You already told him we were in New Mexico."
"There's only one tunnel in this entire state, and its nowhere near here."
Heda shrugged. "Not like he was going to believe me anyway. But at least now he'll go talk to the Council. The only question is --" She paused, then growled.
"How long until I get a call from my mother." Just then, her phone rang. She stared at it. It kept ringing. Right before it went to voicemail, she sighed and flipped it back open.
"Hi Mom. No, there's no tunnel. No, that's not . . .How can I be interfering with an investigation? I'm no place near where they're investigating!"
Peter smiled as the Debate began. At least he didn't need to worry about entertainment on the drive home.
That night . . .
"This is Captain Jack, signing off, but want to once again welcome Ms. Madison Sloan to the KLEZ crew. She's our new intern and if tonight is any indication, I think she'll fit right in."
"Thanks Jack. I just want to thank everyone here at the station for making my first evening so enjoyable. I'll be haunting the Texas skies, hopefully your Texas Hearts, but definitely your Texas ears for the next few months. So keep the first one cleared for take-off, the second one open, and the third one tuned to KLEZ."
"Ladies and gentlemen, looks like we got a winner on our hands. Good night all."
Billy reached over and closed the application. Everyone in the house had gathered together to listen to Madison's first program as an intern via the station's website.
"Goddess, she sounds so sexy. Even when it's digital," Heda moaned happily, leaning back in the chair she'd occupied for thirty minutes straight. For her, sitting still that long without a book in her hand was almost a record.
"I concur," Billy said, then glanced at Sasha.
Sasha looked for a moment like she was going to object to her boyfriend referring to someone else as sexy, but then she just shrugged. "She really does," she admitted.
"Heda?" Came a voice from the front door.
Heda's skin flushed, and she stood up slowly. "Time to face the music." She walked out to the entryway to find Ed hanging up his coat.
"You really just couldn't let it go, could you?" He stopped her before she could begin to rant. "Which is good. The lead investigator pulled in a voodoo priest from New Orleans and a priestess from Haiti, and they've stabilized the King with sympathetic magics of their own. And I reminded everyone that it was Madison's idea in the first place and that, you confirmed. You're an annoying, bratty sister, but only because you're right so damn much."
"You are the master of the backhanded compliment, you know that?"
Ed bowed. "I have to do something to stand out in this family."
"You're amazing in bed, if that helps," Joanna shouted from the other room.
"She is not a normal girl," Ed muttered.
Heda nodded, looked back, then grabbed Ed by the arm and led him out onto the porch. "Okay," she started, "since you're not mad at me --"
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves," he interrupted. "I said you're not in trouble, not that I'm not --"
"Have you heard of these monarch runner up rankings?"
Ed looked at her. "Of course. I've got money riding on you, by the way, so don't let me down, but wait until you're twenty-five to try."
"Why didn't you tell me? I don't want to be monarch. I haven't written my first book or play or screenplay or anything!"
"Don't panic," Ed said, getting a chuckle out of his sister hyperventilating. "It's just odds. It's not like if you get to the number one spot that you HAVE to challenge." He cocked his head. "You do realize that Mom pretty much always thought you'd try, don't you?"
"I'm not sure. I think she started talking to Samantha about it when you were ten."
"SHE TALKED TO THE QUEEN?!" Heda yelped. She dropped and put her head between her knees and started to breathe hard.
Edgar had never seen his sister like this. He had seen her quick-witted, snarky, funny, and he had seen her in a rage. She had scared him a bit when she had gone after a serial killer in his own lair like the fires of hell were on her side. "Heda, it's just a list. Like 'Maxim's 100 Hottest Women' or the short list to be vice president. It really doesn't matter all that much. It's a bunch of people who have nothing else to do but listen to rumors and sit in front of their computers."
Heda looked up at her brother. "I never realized I was under that kind of microscope. I . . . don't know why it's freaking me out, but it is."
"Sucks when you're actually expected to be perfect after achieving it by accident for so long."
Heda kicked her brother in the knee, albeit lightly. "I'm not perfect. I don't know how they do it. You know what Queen Brown is like, and Reichert walks a lot narrower of a tight-rope than I thought. I'm an English major, dammit! I'm not used to needing definitive answers or being held accountable!"
Ed grinned. "You could always drop out and go into hiding as a hermit."
"Nuh unh. I saw Mom's expression when you told her you weren't going to college. I'm not going to have her come looking for me."
"Then get used to being in the public eye. You're the prodigal daughter, and you wreak havoc. People notice."
Heda smiled. "Just keep throwing all that back in my face."
Ed wrapped an arm around his sister's shoulders. "Honestly, I kind of hope you don't go for Queen. Ever. You know that there are some shifters, especially in the reptile community, that think this would be a good time to challenge Reichert? They don't think the Council should be protecting him."
"Because of Reichert's own philosophy. The strong survive. Some are saying he brought this on himself and, for better or for worse, he should either be strong enough to deal with it on his own. If not, then he should be fair game."
"Bullshit! This thing of Detrius's or Daryl's or whatever the hell his name is, it isn't a legitimate challenge. It would be like hiring someone to shoot a monarch, then challenging them. It's against the law."
"But it isn't, because no one asked Mosely to do this. No one asks a guy to get cancer that might weaken him, but he would still be available to be challenged. The reptiles around Reichert right now are all loyalists, but if someone comes forward with a real dominance challenge, then no one is sure what the Council would say."
"We need to stop him, Ed. Damn, I just want to go out and find that son of a bitch right now, but --"
"But you're still not an official investigator," Ed reminded her. "I hate to keep going back to that, but --"
Heda stood up, stuck her tongue out at her brother, then headed back inside. She hung out with her friends for a while, then headed up to her own room when Joanna pulled Edgar off into a dark area to do some things that no sister should ever watch her brother doing. Heda opened up her windows and then lay down on the bed, her nose in one of her favorite books, a breeze caressing her face and shoulders.
'It's getting colder out there,' she thought, absently considering closing the windows again. 'Cold.' She stood up and went to the window. 'This guy is all about cold.' She sat in the window and stared out into the wilderness. "He was the number one student, so he hunts number one students. He thinks that Reichert should die because Professor Hill died," she said out loud. Still staring out into the woods, something hit her consciousness.
She hurried downstairs and, making sure that Ed was still not around, she started leafing through the files that he had left in his briefcase. She wanted the obituary. She read over the black-and-white text several times, including the synopsis of the anonymous student. 'He died alone and in the cold,' she thought. 'He went out into the woods behind his house and . . . shot . . . himself.'
Heda spun around to find Billy looking over her shoulder. "How do you move that quietly?! It's fucking creepy."
"Sasha is a light sleeper," he said. "So it's a skill acquired out of survival instinct."
"You wake her up, she kills you?"
"Amongst other things." He looked at the obituary. "Think you're going to find something the official investigators missed?"
"It's probably nothing. My brain's all hyped up right now, so I figure that going through all this might help me feel like I'm doing something. You know, going back to the beginning --"
Billy did NOT like the look that played across Heda's face. "Heda? What are you thinking?"
"Where was Professor Hill's house?"
The wereturtle glanced at the article. "Locust Drive? That's just --" He stopped. "Heda, go tell your brother whatever your idea is. Now."
Heda rolled her eyes. "I don't want to bother him with something that's probably nothing," she said, heading upstairs.
Billy followed. "With you, something tends to wind up being something big and, if recent memory serves me correctly, explosive. Just go tell your brother . . . Heda, what are you doing?"
Heda had pulled up a mapping program and was locating the address that Billy had noticed on the newspaper clipping. "Just checking on something."
"You don't need Google Earth to tell you where your brother is. He is downstairs," Billy added, speaking as if to a child. "I will go get him for you --"
"Nah, no need to bother him," Heda said with an unnatural, totally forced calm. "Hey, I think I'm going to --"
"Go downstairs and talk to your brother?"
"-- go for a flight. You know, clear my --"
"Schedule, giving you plenty of time to go talk to your brother?"
Billy moved between Heda and the window. The eagle-shifter was already undressing in preparation of shifting. "You're a day flier. You cannot honestly expect me to believe that this is for your health, mental or otherwise."
"Billy, please move."
"Not until you talk to your brother --" He stopped when Heda's eyes began to glow. Her Gift was on. She picked him up as easily as if he were a dining room chair, spun around, and put him down on the other side. "-- about what you're doing," he muttered as Heda climbed onto the windowsill, shifted, and took off into the night sky. He turned and headed back downstairs, muttering unflattering things about bird-shifters in general.
Heda was able to see the neighborhood from a ways off, her sharp eyes able to pierce the darkness with the aid of moon and star light. She flew low, looking at the house numbers. Professor Hill's old house was set back a bit from the others, and did not look to be in the best condition. There was a "For Sale" sign out front, and Heda wondered if it had been like that since Hill lived here. The front yard consisted of several acres of wooded area that was going for the overgrown natural look. She did a pass over the back, seeing that the property butted directly up to the woods and mountains.
She perched on the chimney and began to look around. The place was incredibly quiet. That was when Heda realized that she did not hear any birds. No insects. Nothing. There were no animal sounds anywhere on the property.
'That's not right,' she thought. She was getting ready to launch again when a large raven landed on the chimney next to her.
Birds were not normally known for their facial expressions, but the black bird was shooting the eagle a look that could kill. If birds could blush, Heda would have. She shifted back to her human form, which was sitting buck-assed naked on a chimney. The raven shifted as well, and Edgar stared over the brick structure at her.
"And you would be doing what?" he asked slowly and acidly. "Exactly?"
"Looking at potential investment real estate? At eleven o'clock at night?"
"Heda, go back to the house. After you explain why the hell you're here. No, on second thought, go back home, then you can explain --"
Heda shifted but rather than flying home, she floated to the ground and then shifted back. Ed joined her, after a moment of quick shifting on his own part, and he looked vexed.
"Listen, this guy is obsessed with his dead professor. This is where his idol lived, and this is where he died. That gives this place some serious meaning for our boy. I just thought that he might come here."
"So you're master plan was to come here, by yourself, naked, and challenge an insane sorcerer with delusions of being a voodoo priest to . . . what? A game of scrabble, winner take all?"
"It'd be nice. I would totally kick his ass. Ed, do you sense any other animal life around here? Besides us?"
Ed looked like he was going to say something snarky, but then he looked confused, followed shortly thereafter by alarmed. "No. I don't."
Heda hurried over and looked in the window of the house. She saw no signs of life in there, and would have been willing to bet that no one had been there in years.
Edgar noticed an exterior cellar door, and when over to check on it. It was locked from the outside, meaning that no one who might be inside probably was not using it. "There is something weird about this place, but whatever it is --"
"-- isn't happening inside," Heda said. "But Professor Hill didn't kill himself inside. He killed himself --"
"-- out back," Ed finished. Both members of the Adler clan looked towards the dark woods that stretched out behind them. "I've got a bad feeling about this. Why are you headed towards the bad feeling?" he asked as his sister found a small, mostly overgrown trail and headed down it. "Heda?"
"I just want to check it out."
"Heda, let's go back and call in the troops."
She glanced back at him. "You think that they aren't on their way already? I took off, you took off to follow me --"
"-- and Billy knew exactly where we were heading. Still, we should . . . oh why do I bother?" he grumbled as Heda crept into the woods. Her eyes were still glowing, granting her the superior eyesight of her eagle form, as well as pumping up her strength and speed.
Heda kept low, keeping her eyes and ears open as she moved slowly forward. She wondered what it was like for the disgraced professor to make this walk, dead to the world in every way but one, and looking to correct that one. It had been a night in the middle of January which, around here, would have been damn cold. She remembered reading that there had been snow on the ground. For a moment that could have been measured in the blink of an eye, she felt sorry for him.
But then she got over it. He had made his bed. He had lain in it. And then he had left this mess behind for others to clean up. Heda was not one to condemn suicide as a method to end real pain. She felt contempt for those who used it to avoid guilt, particularly when said avoidance prevented them from doing what was right.
After ten minutes of creeping around, she was beginning to get frustrated. She had been so sure that –
"Heda, careful," Ed said beside her.
"Why?" Then she followed her gaze down to where a tripwire was laid across Ed's leg. Then she followed the wire to a shotgun that was rigged to a tree. "Oh fuck." Then, everything came crashing home. "I almost got you killed."
"No, I almost got me killed," Ed said.
"Ed, go back and find the others. Lead them back --"
"You have got to be shitting me?!" he hissed. "We are BOTH going back!"
"If he's here, I can't let him escape, but I'm not letting you get hurt."
He stared at her for a moment. "One," he started slowly, "of us is supposed to be here doing this. That 'one' is not you. YOU are supposed to be sitting at home, thinking of your girlfriend and volleyball and classes, and maybe only in a cursory fashion wonder what you're courageous older brother is doing in his search for a serial killer."
"But --" Heda started to say as she helped Ed ease his leg back from the tripwire.
"I am not leaving my baby sister alone in the woods with someone who wants to kill her."
"I love you too, bro, but I'm a better fighter than you, and --"
"And in the end," a new voice came creeping out of the black, "none of it will matter. You are not welcome here," Daryl Mosely whispered. "And now, you will die here. Just like He did. Just like the false king will."
For a moment, Heda considered trying to reason with him. Whoever this guy really was, he was deeply disturbed and unhinged. But then she remembered Madison, lying in a hospital bed with burns on her arms, suffering from hypothermia, terrified. She remembered Carla explaining what it was like to be hung in a cage after being tortured. She remembered the young woman who did not survive.
"You know it's over now," Heda said. "All your games and scheming and cruelty . . . it's all over."
"You're right. It must end tonight. The King will die in the grips of the unbearable ice, and you . . . you will be blessed in a way denied Him. I will grant you the privilege of not being alone when you die."
"Good to hear, especially since unlike your mentor, we're not complete failures as human beings," Heda said. Then, she kind of wished she hadn't. Because the look she got when she insulted the late Professor Hill was terrifying. It was not hateful or angry or . . . anything. In Daryl Mosley's eyes, she saw a nothingness so profound that it seemed to absorb what little light was falling amongst the trees, bathing the killer's face with a clinging blackness. Then that emotionless voice whispered something, and the air around them grew colder. He gestured –
"Duck!" Ed shouted, shoving his sister aside as a shower of icicles shot out from their enemy's fingertips, impaling themselves in the tree behind her.
"Dammit!" Heda shouted. She had been in the process of dodging anyway when her brother's action threw her off balance, and she went tumbling into the bushes. She struggled to regain a fighting stance, but Daryl had stepped back into the shadows. Around them, a cold mist was forming, obscuring even Heda's sight. "Ed, get the hell out of here!" This time, she was able to keep her feet when she dodged, hearing the chanting and sensing the frozen spikes headed her way.
"I told you no!" he shouted, then grunted some obscenities as he was forced to dodge.
Heda realized how stupid she had been. She had been so obsessed with chasing this particular car that she had never developed a plan on what to do when she caught it, and now her brother was in danger. And once again, Daryl knew the terrain better than she.
"He was better than you," came Daryl's voice, drifting through air that was becoming increasingly colder. "He was warmth and light."
'So fucking cold,' Heda thought. 'He's using some serious juice right now.'
Then, she heard a blast from off on her left, and her brother screamed. The booby traps.
'Oh Goddess,' thought Heda, as her very core turned far colder than anything Daryl might cast. "Ed!"
"Heda," came something more like a gasp than a real voice. "Go."
Heda began to shift. Daryl might control the ground and the mist, but Heda would control the skies. She went all the way into her eagle form and flew upward, trying to spot her brother, but the dank fog had become too thick to see the ground. She should go for help. But if she did, Ed would probably not live until she got back. She saw an area that seemed devoid of the infernal mist, so she flew there quickly and shifted into her half-form. She wished she hadn't. She wished she had not had to see what lay at the center of Daryl Mosley's forest retreat. He had surrounded a small clearing with camouflage netting and inside, it looked like a slaughterhouse.