When Nathan was taking her home, she felt really sick. Her stomach was convulsing and her head was throbbing as if she’d smelled some seriously bad exotic perfume. At first she didn’t think she’d even make it up on her floor, but somehow she found herself far up, nearly going past her own apartment and she didn’t bother her thinking with much more.
She had no doubt that those symptoms came from touching that bottle. The only problem was she couldn’t tell if they were from her own mind or were really there. The first thing she did, after getting in the door, was to go straight to the sink and relentlessly scrub her hands up to her elbows and then her face and anything else she thought she might have touched. She boiled some water in the kettle and repeated the entire process with the hottest water her hands could tolerate with vinegar. It didn’t make her inside feel much lighter, but it rested her soul that she had done everything she could think of to get rid of the possible stains.
Then she called emergency medical line and asked what else she could do if she thinks she had contact with strong spray poison.
Wait, was the only answer she got. Probably whatever she could inhale through the skin was already in her system, but because it happened nearly an hour ago and she wasn’t too sick, then it would probably pass like a stomach bug.
She felt like saying something seriously frustrated to such round talk, thinking on the men in the basement with far more severe symptoms than mere stomach bug.
She hanged up and went to bed, folded her knees up to her chest and just waited, warmed by the blanket and hoped to wake up in the morning alive and not with anything that would remind of them, when she looked into the mirror.
Her mind played tricks on her and she fell asleep seeing nothing but fire everywhere with canisters falling and Alex’ image mixing together with the rest of his team. She was always far away and some time from the middle, she saw herself digging through the graveyards filled with bones and dinosaurs and bottles falling from the sky like blue snow on Pluto.
She woke up at lunch with those blue bottles stuck in her head and body tangled in her bed sheets. She may not know all the chemicals, but it didn’t seem like a normal air freshener standing on those tables.
“All that is missing is a gas mask!”
Is that what he meant the longer they spent there, the worse it got? They were feeding them with it, spraying it in their cells! Oh yes did she understand!
She got out of the bed and went to the kitchen to wash her face. Then she called Matteo and told him she was sick and couldn’t come in. With anxiety echoing through her every word, it was convincing enough.
She knew she had to get them out now, not tomorrow or day after, but now – before Alex was lost and she was left alone forever doing nothing else but capturing them from all over the town. If there was a better facility somewhere out there, where they would be kept, she was willing to get them there, because with the increasing madness they presented, she wasn’t sure she wanted to even live in the same country after a month.
She had to have a reason to get back in the house and she needed to talk to Alex and get the info how to contact his friend. And get a trailer – something big and strong to get them there. The only one she knew she could get her hands on would have been the animal trailer at the circus. Yes, she was sure the Black Swan could lend her a hand.
Jameson called. She saw his number blinking on the phone, but it only buzzed. She turned the sound off yesterday after she got back.
She picked it up and pressed it between the shoulder and her ear while drying her hands.
“Are you home? We need to talk!”
“Good day to you too!” she reminded him. She wasn’t in mood for brotherly scolding and if that was his mission today, then she was not home.
He was in a car, driving fast if to believe the honking on the background. “Those things that you capture? Hunt – he is pissed! I mean, really pissed at you right now!”
“Well, good to know!”
“No! You’re in deep shit, girl! Are you home?”
“Yes, I’m home.”
The phone fell dead and she put it back on the counter, tossing the towel far off on the chair.
She heard his grey Volvo breaks stop right in front of the main door ten minutes later. She didn’t know what he meant by deep shit, but she was pretty sure it was to do with that little experiment going on in the cellar of Elinnger house. She always loathed the serene suburbs and now she loathed them even more.
She watched from her kitchen window how Jameson ran in the house, leaving his car unlocked – bad sign in this part of the town. Hunt was right after him. They were serious and suddenly she didn’t feel so well anymore.
She unlocked the door only seconds before the two men in their overalls reached her door and pulled it open to let them in. They looked tired, but it was normal for circus workers – most animals needed to be fed early so the rest of the day could go smoothly in the rhythm of trainings and grooming.
“If you know where they are kept – pour it over with gasoline and fire it up!” Hunt yelled for hello already from the corridor and came running after Jameson.
She stared at him, dumbfounded. Not quite the introduction she was hoping for.
“I need a bit more than that,” she closed the door, “why?”
“They dig through everything, right?” Jameson asked, measuring her apartment in steps. “They wreck around and can sense you moving even if there is thick concrete between you two?”
Hunt sat down on her bed. “Their eyes are bloodshot and they are so mad, they have lost their fingernails! Some break their fingers off and they don’t even notice?”
She shook her head, she was lost.
“Hunt saw the man your soldiers were taking in the car!”
Hunt intervened “I know that sickness! The burnt faces, half scalped heads – I have seen it before!”
For a moment it didn’t sink and then she needed chair. “Where?”
“They attacked my family home, when I was little – demons, who came through the rocks! They too had no fingers and there was nothing left in their eyes. Dad said they were people from the neighboring village. They killed small town full of people before they went too far in desert and the Sun burned them! I never forget those faces. We deserted our villages over night, ran like crazy, hoping to get away. Sometimes they would spring out behind someone slower and kill them. We ran through the night with them only feet behind us!”
“They have the same symptoms!”
“How would you know the symptoms?” she got angry on her brother. “You didn’t see them! You’re talking nonsense! They’re nearly 30! They can’t be the same…”
“I’m not telling they’re the same, but they bare the same looks!” Hunt gasped suddenly, looking at her turned away face. “You’ve seen the gas, haven’t you?”
Her eyes fell close. She wanted to be anywhere else but here right now.
“Yes, I saw the canisters.”
“They were blue, handwritten text on them?” Hunt asked.
“Yes.” She rose.
“You have to burn them! If you need, we’ll help – but they must die before they get out again!”
“Alex has cure for them! He said he…”
Jameson shook his head to make her stop. “He is one of them, is he not?”
Hunt gasped in anger. “There is no cure! They couldn’t find it then and they are not searching any now! They must die and that is all!”
“You haven’t seen him! You wouldn’t believe he is different from you or me if you didn’t see his hands!”
“The gas triggers your nervous system! It burns through your brain! There is nothing left there to save!”
She sat down.
Jameson kneeled before her and took her hands in his, pulling her eyes on him. “Margaret, dear, you gotta look bigger picture than your overworking hormones! If even one of the gas tanks they have explodes, we’re looking at a massacre in big scale!”
“Then I’ll find out, where they keep this stuff and destroy that! But those men – Alex said he has a cure for them and I believe him!”
“You and your lost cause!” he grinded his teeth “You can’t save him or his friends!” he pushed her away and shoot up. “You want me to put this in perspective for you? Ok, here’s one! Do you want to be responsible for children they kill or the entire town?”
“Don’t play the save-the-planet-today-destroy-it-tomorrow on me! I don’t play these games!” she cried out, bursting in tears. “Alex has a solution for them! We need to give him a chance!”
“No we don’t, dear.” Hunt walked over the room and offered her one of his big grid handkerchiefs. “He is there right now?”
“Yes. He let them catch him to get back inside.”
“Shut up, Jameson! Perhaps not so foolish if you knew what his plan is!” she yelled.
“Do you know his plan?” Hunt patted her shoulder to calm her down, but it wasn’t helping much.
“No. He didn’t have time to tell me.”
“When will you go back?” Jameson asked.
“When they need me. I only help to catch them!”
“When might that happen? Tomorrow? In a week?”
“I don’t know!”
“We must get to those canisters as fast as we can!” Jameson turned to Hunt.
“They’re not keeping them in the cellar.” She intervened, gathering both of their eyes. “First time I got there, the table in the middle of the room was empty – yesterday it had canisters on it. Besides that table and a chair, there is no place to hide them unless they kept them together with them in the cells.”
“Somewhere in the house, maybe? They can’t keep them far.”
“And when you get them? How do you destroy them?”
“Open them and let the gas out?” Jameson shrugged.
They both stared at him as if they’d just been hit with a pan.
“You suggest we stand in the same room with it while you hammer a nail in a pressurized can?” She shook her head. “You can’t be that stupid.”
“So what do you suggest?”
“I don’t know! Until today I had no need to think how to hold in a chemical nightmare!”
They said nothing for a while. This was taking them nowhere.
“I can’t leave them there. We don’t have the right to kill them – no one has. If Alex sais there is a chance for them, we must take it.”
“If they get out…”
“I’ll think something out. To start with…” she thought hard.
“I’ll suggest giving them tracing devices!”
Jameson blasted her plan immediately. “Oh, brilliant! Go tell that to Alex! I’m sure he’ll just LOVE your plan!”
“If they plant it in a muscle…”
“That only works with dogs and only if they are found and the tag is read with a reader!”
“Then something they could wear…”
“Stop it, Margaret.”
She shook her head. “I’m not leaving him there so you could go and cook them alive!”
“I will cook that house and I will watch them burn with all the ghosts of my village!”
She froze on her chair, his handkerchief still close to her nose, and the awful images from her dream flickering past her eyes.
“Tell me where it is!”
“After two days.” She said firmly staring in distance.
Hunt moaned in despair. “Margaret, dear, you’re not thinking straight! I’m telling you – we need to kill those men before they start a massacre!”
She turned her eyes in his, cold as ice.
“Two of those men are already dead, because I showed them where to shoot! Alex went back in, because he put that much trust in me to do my part! To you it might be simple decision, but the mere thought that I’m forced to live on knowing I knew and did nothing, is unbearable!” She raggedly breathed in and looked at the handkerchief she was holding. “I need two days.”