Will allowed Dale to lead him back up the hill, his mind spinning. A spark was alight somewhere deep inside him. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to give him hope, to keep him alive. I can save Sarah. It was the mantra he could use to build a wall against the tide of despair in which he’d been drowning. I can save her. She needs me. At last, it was as though he was himself again, instead of a zombie. The dreaminess of the world he was in thinned another inch.
When he returned to the house, Darla greeted him with a pat on the back and a sheepish smile, snake tongue flicking from her mouth. ‘Sorry about the souls, darlin’. I forgot what it was like. Damn near had a fit myself when I found out I was a Feeder.’
Calvin, settling down on the couch with a glass of the Bad Stuff, answered Will’s unasked question: ‘It means she needs to eat living flesh in order to feed on souls.’
‘Living flesh?’ The image of the beast that ate his father flashed across his mind, but before anyone could enlighten him any further Dale’s deep voice cut in.
‘Quiet, quiet. It’s enough for the boy to deal with in one day. And besides, every minute we spend talking, the girl gets farther away.’
‘Her name is Sarah,’ Will said.
Dale nodded. ‘Thank you, Will. Please, sit down. Darla, give him Blood Dweller’s Guide. You’ve read it enough times, and he needs it more than anyone in Hell right now, I imagine.’ Will took a seat on the rickety couch opposite her and Darla slid the leather-bound tome she’d had in her lap when he’d met her across to him. ‘Required reading for fresh meat,’ she said. ‘Saved my Soul more than once.’
When they were all seated, Dale stood before them like a general addressing his soldiers, opaque eyes swivelling from one to the other, one hand resting on the rusted knife in his belt. Something about him reassured Will immensely: the simplicity of Good Versus Evil that he embodied. This land doesn’t need to be Hell at all – it could be a Paradise… Then something black fell from one of Dale’s dreadlocks and scuttled down his body, disappearing into the rags around his waist. No one seemed to notice. Could that happen to me? The thought made Will want to hurl. He made a mental note to read through the book Darla had given him at the first opportunity.
‘With all due respect to Will and his family,’ Dale began, ‘I think the attack on that house is the breakthrough we’ve been looking for. Not just because we’ve found two Seers, but because they found them. I wasn’t sure at the time, but the more I think about it the less likely it seems monsters would have selected Will’s house by chance, and that they would have had the restraint not to eat his sister’s soul.’
‘You think it was Him?’ Calvin said, teeth clicking against his glass as he took a sip. ‘The Angel?’
‘Course it was him,’ Darla said. ‘Monsters don’t follow orders from anyone. Not unless they’ve been trained well by someone.’
‘Who says they were following orders from The Angel?’
‘Darla’s right,’ Dale said. ‘Rogue monsters don’t survive for long this close to Mort City, and they definitely don’t conduct organised attacks on houses which just happen to have two Seers under one roof. This has The Angel’s fingerprints all over it.’
Will couldn’t help himself. ‘Who’s The Angel?’
An awkward silence followed. This time it was Calvin who answered. ‘He’s the oldest resident of Mort City. He claims to be the founder, and no one’s survived long enough to dispute the claim. In any case, he might as well be. He runs everything, behind the scenes. Every soul, every demon, every monster. I met him once. He’s the closest thing to evil I’ve ever seen. Completely corrupted by Hell.’
Darla snorted, picking rat out of her teeth. ‘Jesus.’
Dale cleared his throat. ‘That covers it, thank you, Calvin. Yes, he’s a gangster. Ruthless.’
Darla nudged Will and whispered in his ear. ‘It’s Chapter Four.’
Dale continued. ‘We must act as if it was The Angel, even if it wasn’t.’
‘But why?’ Will said. ‘What if you’re wrong?’
‘If it was him, we might have a chance of catching up with Sarah, and if it wasn’t, we’d never catch her, anyway. A rogue group of monsters would be impossible to trace, and they’d have eaten her by now.’ Will stared down at his clenched fists and tried not to cry. Everything felt so raw here, as though the skin had been stripped from his body to reveal the sensitive meat beneath. He hoped Sarah was okay.
‘Luckily for us,’ Dale continued, ‘that simplifies things. If The Angel took her, it explains why the second group entered the Maze.’
‘To shake off any tails,’ Darla said.
‘Yes. And we know something else, which makes everything far more urgent. The Angel has some way to find Seers. Which can only mean one thing.’
‘He’s on his way here,’ Calvin said. Will’s stomach clenched.
‘Maybe not now, but soon,’ Dale said. ‘So there are measures to take. We need to move the bodies to Freya’s house, and we need to leave this place.’
The other two demons erupted immediately.
‘You can’t let her take care of the bodies!’ Darla said, yellow eyes narrowing. ‘She’s a bloody maniac.’
‘If we move, they’ll follow us, anyway,’ Calvin put in. ‘Better to hide, and come back here when they’re gone. They’ll think we ran.’
‘You’re forgetting that they can detect Seers,’ Dale said. ‘They could track us by following Will’s soul, no matter where we go. As for Freya, she may be… less than stable. But if anyone has an idea of where to store two dead bodies in sub zero temperatures for any length of time, I’m open to ideas.’
They were silent, and for a minute all Will could hear was the sound of endless wind rattling the door in its frame. Wind from the void: coming from nowhere, going nowhere.
‘Good,’ Dale said. ‘Besides, I’m not here to run and hide. I did enough of that while I was alive. I’m here to fight. So this is what we’re going to do: Darla, you take Will back up to his body and help him move his sister to Freya’s house. Calvin and I will go in to Mort City and find out what we can about The Angel’s movements, and why he’s taken such a shine to Seers all of a sudden. I have a bad feeling there’s more to it than their market value. When Will and Sarah’s bodies are safe, don’t come back here. Go through the Maze and meet us at Helmstead House. Even if The Angel does have a way to track Will, it should take him a while to find us there. Questions?’
All three of them raised their hands. Dale sighed. ‘Yes, Darla?’
‘How the bloody Jesus am I supposed to transport two dead bodies all the way to the coast without getting caught?’
Dale dismissed her with a wave. ‘Will can help you. Who knows what marvels exist now, in the future?’
‘I died in 1986, God Man. I’m telling you they ain’t done shit since then.’
‘Wouldn’t it make more sense for me to take the boy?’ Calvin asked. Will thought that was an extremely valid question. He didn’t exactly know Darla, but she didn’t strike him as ‘stable’ herself. And besides, couldn’t Calvin transport souls to and from Earth? Hadn’t he called it his special talent?
But Dale shook his head. ‘No offense, Darla. But I need someone with stealth and cunning in Mort City. We’re on a scouting mission, not an ambush. Yes, Will?’
‘What does he want my sister for?’
Dale took a deep breath, and the other two demons tensed – a sure sign that he was about to tell the painful truth, which as Will was learning, he was in the habit of doing.
‘There are only three reasons anyone would want a Seer soul,’ he said. ‘To put them on a wall or in a cage as a sign of prestige, to sell them for a high price to hungry or ambitious demons, or to eat them.’
‘Oh.’ Will said. Then he stood up, tucked Blood Dweller’s Guide under his arm, and said: ‘Well, what are we waiting for then?’
‘Good lad,’ Dale said. ‘Let’s get moving.’