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Black Magic Sanction

Black Magic Sanction: Page 18

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The second door slammed behind it a moment later, cutting off the light after I saw the toilet, sink, and nothing else.

They didn't even laugh at me as their voices became faint, I was so beneath their consideration. Slowly I got my legs untangled, the motion difficult because my arms were still cuffed behind me. Feeling sick, I scooted back until I found the wall. It was metal, too, and cold. The soft sounds of my breathing became loud. Someone nearby was crying, but it wasn't me.

It would never be me.

The metal floor and walls were cold, but I had quit shivering hours ago, numb to it now. The backs of my knees were swollen, and I couldn't bend them. They ached, throbbing with a pain that refused to abate and that I just learned to live with. The solid outer door had remained closed, and it was close to pitch-dark. I couldn't see the walls, but I had traced their outlines to find the toilet - hard to use with my hands still cuffed - and the sink. Now I sat with my back in a corner beside the door, my legs outstretched on the cold metal floor to try to get the swelling down. Getting my cuffed hands in front of me had been torture.

I had missed lunch, by the faint scent of lasagna that had come and gone. My dinner had been salad. I hadn't eaten it, and it sat beside the interior door where the woman had left it. The vinegary dressing was probably full of magic-demoting goodness.

A scrape of nail on metal brought my heart into my throat, and I strained to see. Rat? I thought. I wasn't scared of them, much, but I couldn't see a damned thing. Wincing, I tried to bring my knees closer. The new scent of iron and stone tickled a memory, and hope brought me stiff. "Bis?" I whispered.

A soft thump shocked through me, and adrenaline pulsed when a pair of softly glowing eyes turned to me, hovering about a foot above the floor. "Ms. Rachel," the adolescent gargoyle whispered, his nails scraping as he came closer. "I knew I could find you!"

"What are you doing here?" I asked, relief spilling through me. I reached out to touch him, and the instant my cold fingertips made contact, the unfamiliar pattern of the shattered West Coast ley lines burst into my thoughts. I jerked back, shocked. Damn it, I really needed to touch someone, but Bis would send me into overload.

"Sorry," he said, his big supple ears drooping like a puppy's in the faint light from his eyes. His usually pricked ears were edged in white fur, as was the lionlike tuft on his thin, hairless tail. His leathery wings rustled as he settled them, and his craggy features looked young despite the crevices and pebbly gray appearance.

"How did you get here?" I whispered. "Is Ivy with you? Did she fly out?"

"It's just me and Pierce," he said proudly. "We jumped. All the way from your kitchen."

"Pierce!" I exclaimed, then winced. Any louder, and a guard might hear. "Did he escape from Al?" Oh God, I'd get blamed for that - even if I was in prison.

Bis's flat, black teeth glinted faintly. "No. After you almost died from that soul charm, the demons made him send someone to watch you. Pierce was willing, able, and cheap."

"You're kidding!" I almost hissed, but I wondered if part of the reason Al had gone along with it was because he was worried Pierce might find him sleeping one night and kill him. I'd thought those silver bands were impossible to thwart. If it had shocked me, it had shaken Al.

"Ivy is mad," Bis said, his words spilling out, sounding like falling scree. "She thinks you lied to her about how bad you were hurt. Pierce taught me how to jump here. I swam from the mainland, but it's too cold for Pierce. No one saw me. I didn't know I could ride the lines. It was cool, Ms. Rachel! First I'm in your kitchen, and then bam! San Francisco! Just that fast. The lines taste funny, here, though." He finally ran out of words, his red eyes glowing faintly.

"Pierce didn't know I was in trouble until you told him?" I insisted, not believing that Al had just let him go. And I really didn't like the demons sending me a babysitter. I could take care of myself. Most days. Today I could use some help though.

The small gargoyle shifted, his wings brushing my ankles to send a burst of awareness through me. "Not a clue. He's really upset. He didn't even know which line to jump to until I told him which line you came in on. That's why he showed me how to jump. Ivy said it was okay. All I had to do was listen to the ley lines. You left your aura all over the place. Following you was freakier than a boy soprano's voice changing in the middle of Ave Maria,' especially when the line we came out of was all broken and stuff, but it was easy! No one told me gargoyles could jump the lines. Even my dad doesn't know, and he's old!"

Gargoyles can jump the lines? Well, they could slide right through a protection circle, and it made Al's comment last winter about my "having my gargoyle" all the more intriguing. But why didn't gargoyles know they could? Demon censorship? Sounded about right.

"Pierce knew exactly where they had taken you when we popped out of that line," Bis said, inching closer, his glowing eyes pinched in worry. "Are you okay?"

I wasn't, but I forced a smile. "I'm much better now," I whispered. "You did good. I'm really happy to see you. Can you get back on your own?

He shook his head, his thick canines making him look terribly fierce as he frowned. "I promised Pierce I wouldn't jump without him. He says I'm not good enough."

I smiled, thoroughly understanding how it rankled to be told you weren't good enough. In this case, though, I was all for a little adult supervision. How Pierce knew the coven would put me here sort of bothered me. True, he'd been a member of the coven of moral and ethical standards himself - before they bricked him into the ground, alive - but Alcatraz hadn't been a prison when he'd been living.

"Bis," I said, wincing when my knees bent. "Can you show me what Pierce showed you? Maybe we can get home together."

The pair of glowing eyes slowly shifted. "Not really. I don't have the words, Ms. Rachel. Pierce said people have to learn from an experienced gargoyle, not a, uh, novice. He can't jump you either. But it's okay," he rushed on when my brow furrowed. "Ivy has someone to bring you home right before the lines close to summoning in Cincinnati."

My knees throbbed, and his eyes shifted from orange to their usual dull red. Even the hard metal floor didn't feel so cold. I was going home. Before they lobotomized me.

Mistaking my relief for despair, Bis edged closer, almost putting a claw on my leg. "Pierce would come rescue you himself, Ms. Rachel, but the water is too cold. No one saw me swim over.
It used to be an old fort, and I only needed a little crack to get in."

He was trying to cheer me up, and I nodded, not knowing what to do with my hands and aware of the cuffs for the first time in hours. Bis could slip through the smallest opening, like an octopus. It had driven Jenks crazy until one night the fun-loving teen showed him how he did it.

"I didn't know you could swim," I said softly, running a finger between me and the steel around my wrist. "The ward around the island didn't stop you?"

"It's just a modified ley line," the young gargoyle said loftily. "It can't keep me out."

"Is Ivy okay? And Jenks?" I hung on his words, starved for the memory of comfort and companionship, and I watched his eyes shift when he nodded.

"Jenks's wing is bent, but he's okay. He can still fly and stuff. They want to wait to summon you home until the sun almost rises in Cincy so the council can't summon you back again. That's what I came to tell you. Pierce is worried. He says not to eat the food."

He knew about the food? I mused, disturbed. "Nick summoned me here," I said bitterly.

"Nick?" The young gargoyle rocked back. "You're sure?"

"Yes," I answered sourly. "He walked right after, but if they throw enough money at him, he'll probably do it again." Bis had heard of Nick by way of Jenks bad-mouthing him, but obviously had never met him. "I have to talk to Al when I get home," I said, probing my knees to see how bad they were, and the dull throb turned into a stabbing pain. "I don't need Pierce babysitting me. That's what Jenks and Ivy are for."

"That's what Ivy thinks, too," Bis said softly, his eyes darting, making me think she'd said so in no uncertain words. Loud ones, probably.

I'd tried to make Al take his summoning name back before, but part of the deal was that he'd remove one of my demon marks, something he didn't want to do. I hadn't pressed the issue since Al couldn't abduct anyone if he couldn't be summoned. That the situation could be used against me had never crossed my mind. I shivered, the backs of my swollen knees pressed against the icy floor. I'd been pulled around like a toy. No wonder demons showed up pissed.

"You're cold," Bis said, as if only now realizing it.

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