Rona fumbled with Virgil’s phone for several minutes before she realized she had to press “send” in order to call 911. All the while she kept a steady watch over him, making sure that his condition didn’t worsen. She tore open his shirt so he could breathe easier, before turning him on his side to prevent him from choking on his own vomit, if it ever came to that. She carried him through the park as quickly and carefully as she could. The ambulance would have an easier time finding them closer to the park entrance. Hold on, kid. By the time she reached the park entrance, she could hear the sirens growing louder. She placed Virgil down on the sidewalk and then ducked out of sight just before the ambulance pulled up. There would be too many awkward questions if she was spotted at the scene. The EMT’s began rescue procedures on Virgil as soon as they spotted him. Rona watched from the bushes as they loaded Virgil up in the back of the ambulance and took off down the street, siren blaring. Virgil was in good hands. There was nothing more she could do for him right now. Perhaps she could get some answers from one of the hooded demons.
Retracing her steps back through the park, she came upon an empty area. The signs of struggle were still there. A few snapped branches, some disturbed earth and even a few bloodstains on the ground. But no demons. Even the ones that she had apparently rendered unconscious were gone without a trace. She searched the area, hoping they left some kind of clue, but to no avail. They had covered their tracks. What did she expect from demons who had been flying under the radar for so long? She recognized one of the demons as the construction worker from the other night. Something had happened to his face. He looked as if he were in the middle of some kind of transformation. So did the other guy who appeared to be a police officer. Rona There must have been someone else pulling the strings behind the scenes. She had just encountered his lackeys.
It was getting late. She wrestled with the thought of going to check out the construction site tonight, but thought it would be best to just go home and come back out tomorrow. Angelica had been right; maintaining her cover was important. So tonight, she would go home before it got too late, like Rona the good schoolgirl, and tomorrow she would go to the construction site, like Rona the ass-kicking angel.
The next day, after school, Rona stole away as quickly as possible. She took the nearby Light rail to downtown. The train dropped her off at Sixteenth Street Mall, and she shuffled past panhandlers, street performers and shoppers before finding herself in viewing distance of the construction site. It was busy and she’d again have to wait for sundown before going in to investigate. She was less apprehensive about doing so now that she had met her enemy and knew what they were capable of. But getting in could cause problems. The area seemed to be crawling with police patrols. Rona wasn’t sure if they would leave once the construction crew left or if they would stay the night in order to dissuade trespassers. Previously, a cop had foiled her attempt to get onto the site. She couldn’t allow that to happen again. She had to figure out another way in.
The nearest building was about twenty stories high. From the rooftop of that building, and with a running start, she could make the leap across to the partially constructed building with relative ease. There was a landing high up on the unfinished building that the construction workers were still using to do window work. Once she landed she would only have to punch through a plastic barrier to gain access to the building. From there she could hopefully descend upon the demons without them noticing. The problem was figuring out how to get to the roof of the building across the street. Her vertical leap could put a basketball player—a foot taller—to shame. But jumping twenty stories straight up—well, she wasn’t Super-man! She had to figure out another way. Perhaps from inside the building.
She walked in through the main entrance of the building. Men and women in business attire were mingling in the lobby or leaving the building. It was apparently near closing time. Rona hesitated a little bit too long as she entered the building, trying to figure out her next move. This caught the eye of one of the security guards.
“May I help you?” he asked with a smile. He was dressed in a cheap suit and clip-on tie that gave the appearance of near-sophistication.
“Uh, yes please. My aunt works on the top floor, here. I’m supposed to meet her up there before she leaves,” said Rona, returning the guard’s smile.
“Why don’t you give her a call so she can meet you down here,” said the guard.
“I forgot my phone,” said Rona.
“That’s okay. I can give her a call for you. What’s her name?” said the security guard, picking up the receiver of a landline telephone.
“Catherine. Catherine Morgan,” said Rona, saying the first name that popped into her head.
“And she works at J&P Law firm?”
“I’m not getting an answer. I’ll just buzz you up,” said the guard, leading Rona down the hall toward the elevators.
“So…are you single?” asked the guard.
“I’m fourteen,” said Rona.
“Oh. Awkward,” said the guard, before swiping his card and holding the elevator for Rona.
“It’s okay,” said Rona, giving the guard a wink before pressing the button for the 22nd floor.
The elevator doors opened on the 22nd floor in no time at all. Rona stepped off of the elevator as if she knew where she was going. She confidently made her way down the hallway. A couple of people gave her a second glance but they didn’t bother her. There were law offices hidden behind glass doors. All of which looked like they were closing for the day. People were leaving the offices in groups and heading for the elevator. Rona saw an opportunity to make a break for the stairwell when she was alone in the hallway. She found the stairwell door in the corner of the hall. “No rooftop access” it said in bold, red letters. Rona checked another exit door. Same thing. Damn. She’d made it this far, she couldn’t give up yet. She decided to hideout in one of the bathroom stalls until she could think of a new plan. She didn’t know how much time passed before she heard the sound of wheels gliding across the bathroom floor. She poked her head out of the stall and saw a young tan girl with long black hair pushing a mop bucket. She was clad in an apron and wearing a set of headphones.
“Hey,” said Rona. The young woman apparently didn’t hear her. She was still jamming to the music of her own personal concert. “Hey,” said Rona a bit louder. The woman jumped when she saw Rona’s head sticking out of the stall.
“Adio Mio!” she said, covering her mouth with her hand.
“Lo siento,” said Rona, motioning her apology. “No era mi intención asustarte.”
The girl laughed off the apology as she removed her headphones.
“I need a favor,” said Rona, in Spanish, while brandishing a $100 bill.
The girl didn’t ask any questions as she swiped her badge in the elevator. She took out a key and opened a compartment in the elevator. She pressed the button behind the panel and the elevator moved up one more floor. The doors opened to a floor very different from the one below it. There were no offices or people, just maintenance materials. Thick tubes and wires hang just overhead, low enough in spots that Rona had to duck in order to avoid some of them, as the girl led her through the area. It smelled like a garage or a basement. Rona looked down in order to step over some wires on the ground, and bumped her head into a low doorway. The cleaning lady giggled as she rubbed Rona’s forehead. Eventually they came to the roof hatch. It was a small square door with a big red lever where the doorknob should’ve been. It reminded Rona of the airplane door she had seen on her flight.
“The latch is locked. I’ll have to call downstairs to get one of those perverted security guards to open it. But once you’re outside, you won’t be able to get back in until I call them again. If you want, I could wait here for you. Just for a few minutes though, because I have to get back to work,” said the girl.
“No. Once I’m on the roof, you don’t have to worry about me,” said Rona.
“How are you going to get down?” asked the girl.
“I’m going to jump across to the other building and climb down that way,” said Rona.
The girl’s eyes grew wide.
“Trust me. I’ll be okay,” said Rona.
The girl looked at Rona as if she didn’t quite understand what she was talking about. She took out her walkie-talkie and spoke into it. “Roof, the door. Open please.”
“Mmmm, hey sexy. You want me to open the roof hatch?” said the guard’s voice through the walkie-talkie.
The girl rolled her eyes and gave Rona a look that clearly said: See what I have to go through?
“Yes, please,” said the woman.
“You got it baby. Anything for you,” said the guard.
Rona took the girl by both hands. She squeezed gently. “Thank you.”
The girl squeezed back. “Be careful.”
The rooftop wasn’t the flat surface Rona was hoping for. There were numerous vents and other things sticking up from the rooftop floor. She had one clear path to run, but she’d have to leap over a vent that stuck up a few feet off of the ground, and then dodge what looked to Rona like a giant metal ice cream cone. She was getting ready to do her run, when she decided to take a moment to enjoy the view. Who knew when she would get this chance again. She walked over to the edge of the rooftop and looked over the edge. Everything looked so tiny from up there. The city lights were captivating. The cityscape with the mountains in the backdrop painted a majestic picture. For the first time, Rona was able to feel the altitude. The crisp air still smelled of autumn. Rona stared up at the sky. For just a moment—a brief moment—she felt closer to Heaven. She turned her attention back to the task at hand. She ducked her chin down, looked forward, took a deep breath and sprinted. She jumped over the air vent, dodged the ice-cream-cone-thing, reached the edge of the building and leaped forward with all of her might. She flew through the air, but as she came closer to the unfinished building across the street it was looking like she wasn’t going to make it. She flailed her arms as her forward motion became a downward motion. The air going into her mouth prevented her from screaming as gravity took a hold of her. She reached out with the full length of her arms in a desperate attempt to grab a hold of something. She caught the landing with her fingertips; holding her just steady enough to grab it with the other hand and pull herself up onto her elbows. She chanced a look down. It looked like the ground was coming up to meet her. Closing her eyes and pulling herself up onto the ledge, she breathed a sigh of relief. That should’ve been a lot easier. She must really be out of shape, she thought.
She punched a whole just big enough for her to slip through. She landed lightly on her feet then took cover behind the first corner she could. There was no light in the building which made seeing close to impossible. Other than that, there was nothing particularly sinister about the building. In fact, it wasn’t much different from the building she had just come from. She used what little light she had to navigate her way through the building, staying close to the walls. No signs of anyone on the same floor as her. She stalked down the hallway until she found a door that led to the stairwell. The door didn’t creak as she opened it. More importantly, no alarm sounded. Without making much sound, she made her way down the stairs, stopping on each floor to listen for activity. The hallway was so dark that she had to feel her way down and take every step carefully to avoid tripping.
When she reached the third floor she heard chanting. The chorus of several voices harmonizing together echoed throughout the area. She couldn’t tell how many people there were but it had to be a dozen or more based on the volume of the sound. She cracked open the door just enough to peer out into the hallway. There was no one on the third floor which meant the chanting had to be coming from the floors below. She walked down another flight, taking each step deliberately. The force of the chanting increased the nearer she got to the second floor. She took a deep breath before cracking the door a little bit, and peering through the space where the door hinged to the wall. Moonlight shined in through a huge glass window in front of the balcony. It wasn’t much, but it was far better lit than the staircase from which she’d come. There was no one in the corridor. She couldn’t see over the balcony from where she stood, but she could tell that just beneath that balcony was where the sound was coming from. She crept through the doorway, being sure to stay low and quiet as she moved toward the balcony. It took effort to be quiet as she dodged around wood materials, power tools, paint cans, and ladders. She ducked down low on the balcony, squeezed between some raw materials, staying just out of sight of both staircases that framed the balcony and led to the first floor. The last thing she needed was someone getting the jump on her. She hunkered down and listened.
The language was not of this world. Perhaps, some ancient demon language. Rona could only make out a word or two every once in a while. She heard a word that could mean either “eyes” or “windows.” The eyes are open? Or the windows are up, perhaps? Neither made much sense to her. She leaned in and listened more closely.
Then suddenly the chanting stopped.
“The time is almost upon us,” said a deep voice in English. “Our numbers are growing and with it, our power!”
Rona chanced a peek over the balcony. There were more than a score of hooded figures standing in a line. All of them different shapes and sizes, hidden behind black hoods that covered their faces. In front of the line was another hooded figure pacing back and forth like a general inspecting the ranks of his soldiers. In his hands he held a long wooden staff that hit the ground in rhythm with his steps. He was clearly the one speaking and evidently the one in charge. Rona was outnumbered and unarmed. And she was on their turf. Fighting all of them was out of the question, but at least she might be able to get some information.
“Soon we will have them all. And we will no longer need to hide in the shadows or meet in darkness. We will bring the darkness to them! For The Eyes see in the dark!”
A roar of chanting erupted. The leader waited until silence returned before continuing.
“The Eyes have seen our victory. They have seen us march through the streets of this city, our numbers more vast than any army, and out power greater than any nation. We will continue to kneel down and worship at the feet of our master. And in turn, the humans will kneel down and worship us. For we have been given power and strength that most cannot imagine. And we will use it to further our master’s plan. You have all done well, and you shall all be rewarded when the time comes. Keep the faith. Continue to praise and worship Him and He will give you everything you can imagine. Let His love motivate you to do His work and strive toward victory. But be cautious. If your faith is weak than He will destroy you. Our master will not tolerate nonbelievers.
“It is okay that the boy escaped. He is one of the final pieces of the puzzle and we shall have him. The Eyes have seen him. There is no place he can hide. No one can hide from The Eyes.”
Chanting sounded at a low rumble.
“You cannot hide in your home!”
The chanting grew louder.
“You cannot hide with the police!”
“You cannot hide on the balcony, as you eavesdrop on our meeting.”
“That’s right, little girl. We know you’re here. The Eyes see everything. Come out from your hiding place,” said the leader.
Rona didn’t make a sound. She looked around the area for something she could use as a weapon. She grabbed a screwdriver and held it tight in her palm.
“Come out, now! This is your last warning, child!”
“If I come out, do you promise not to hurt me?” asked Rona, attempting to sound as afraid as possible. She listened closely for his response in order to gauge his exact location.
“No,” said the leader. “I am still going to kill you. But if you show yourself, I’ll make sure there is enough of you left for your parents to bury when I’m done.
“Okay,” said Rona.
She marked him.
With lightning speed, she leaped up, preparing to launch the screwdriver in the leader’s direction. The leader reacted with equal speed. He pointed his staff up at Rona and before the screwdriver could leave her hands, He launched a fiery blast from his staff. The blast hit the balcony where Rona was standing, exploding it beneath her. She let out a yell as she plunged downward and landed with a heavy thud on the floor below. She instinctively covered her head as debris continued to fall from the floor above. A ladder and a two-by-four landed not too far from her. Followed by a buzz saw and rebar. The fall disoriented Rona. She looked up to find herself unarmed and surrounded by hooded figures.
The leader laughed.
It was not a pleasant sound.
“Did I hurt you, little girl?” said the leader.
Rona rose to her feet, but stayed in a crouched position, with one hand on the ground, one knee bent and the other leg extended out to her side. She had to be ready to leap out of the way of another one of those blasts. At least now, she knew what he was capable of. She had been fortunate enough to fall with her back to the wall and all of her enemies in front of her. She had caught another lucky break as well.
This guy liked to gloat.
“I must admit, I’ve been looking forward to meeting you. My Infernal told me what you did to them in the park, last night, so I’ve been hoping you’d turn up. But I thought you’d be taller,” said the leader.
Infernal? Is that what these guys are?
“Admittedly, I’m not impressed,” said the leader.
“You will be,” said Rona with a smirk.
The leader laughed. “You’ve got moxie; even in the face of certain death. Who are you?”
“Me? Oh, I’m just some chick. Who are you?”
“You can call me—master!” said the leader as he launched another blast from the end of his staff. Rona rolled out of the way as the blast hit the wall behind her. She grabbed the two-by-four that had landed near her and hurled it at the leader. He knocked it out of the way with his staff.
“You’re pretty quick,” he said.
“You’re a lousy shot. What do you want with the boy?”
“A better question is: why do you risk yourself for him? Is he your boyfriend? Ha! You’ve been in town for a week and you’ve already proven yourself a harlot!” said the leader.
How did he know how long she’d been in town?
“Do you really think you’re powerful? You’re not the only one who is unimpressed. So you can shoot fire out of your stick, so what? Is that all of the power that ‘The Eyes’ have given you? Boring!” said Rona.
“Yes, ‘really.’ You preach about someone who has given you all of this power but I’m not seeing it. You haven’t even been able to capture a teenage boy. In fact, you can’t even kill me. And I’m just a girl! You’re pathetic. You threw your best attack at me twice and couldn’t get the job done. And don’t pretend you haven’t been trying. I know incompetence when I see it. You tried to intimidate me—didn’t work. But if you’re trying to bore me to death than you may be on to something. Your master must be pretty pathetic if this is all the power he’s given you.”
“Do not blaspheme,” growled the leader.
“What are you gonna’ do about it? Talk to me some more? Tell me how bad-ass you are? Save it! You’ve lost this fight already. You guys are nothing but a cult of cowards and weaklings. You hide behind masks and in the shadows so that no one can see what a sorry lot you are. You talk about the day when you’re going to take over the world, but it’s never going to happen because you and your master are pitiful. Pathetic. Laughable. You’re losers. And the thing about losers is: they never win.”
“Silence!” said the leader as he fired another blast from his staff. Rona ducked into the split and the blast sailed over her head.
“For your sake, I hope that The Eyes are not as blind as you are.”
The leader fired another blast and Rona dove to the side to avoid it. The blast barely missed one of the Infernal. Rona grabbed a piece of rebar. She held it like a javelin and charged the leader. He launched another blast at her. Just before the blast hit her, Rona forced the rebar down at the ground, using the forward momentum to pole vault over the blast. She landed right behind him. She swung the rebar at his head. Although he was able to block most of it, the blow put him on his back and sent him sliding across the floor. The Infernal moved in on Rona. She defended herself, using her piece of rebar like a bow-staff. One of the Infernal threw a punch at her. She ducked and spun out of the way as the punch whiffed overhead. She jammed the end of the rebar in his gut and then swung the other end in an uppercut motion, catching him on the chin and sending him to the floor. She leaped out of the way as two more Infernal charged her. She swung the rebar like a bat, catching one of them on the top of the head. She allowed the momentum to carry her through as she spun again catching the other one low and sweeping him off of his feet. A kick to the face finished the job. Rona swung the rebar around her body like a helicopter blade, keeping the other Infernal at bay. They circled cautiously as Rona flipped the bar around her body. She flowed with the momentum of the spinning rebar, cartwheeling through the air and bringing the bar down hard on the knee of one of the Infernal. Another Infernal tackled Rona to the ground, but she went with the attack. Using his momentum, she placed her feet on his chest and flipped him over her head. The leader pointed the staff at her, preparing his attack. Rona leaped over one of the Infernal, and using the rebar she grabbed him from behind, placing the bar in his throat. The leader launched another blast Rona’s way. Rona braced herself behind her human/Infernal shield. The blast hit, sending Rona and the Infernal flying into the back wall. The impact hurt Rona enough for her to drop the Infernal she’d been using as a shield, along with the rebar. The leader looked like he was preparing another attack. Rona braced herself for impact.
Sirens blared and tires screeched outside. A minute hadn’t passed before the sound of boot-clad feet could be heard headed in their direction.
“Freeze! Police!” said a voice moving quickly towards them.
“Help! They’re trying to kill me!” shouted Rona. The leader turned to her. Rona could feel him glaring at her from beneath his hood.
“We’ll meet again,” said the leader.
“Don’t make me wait,” said Rona with a wink.
The leader and his Infernal scattered in different directions. Rona leaped up onto the stairwell of the mostly-collapsed balcony. She bolted up the steps. She could hear the police coming in behind her just as she made it to the stairwell
“Hey!” called one of the police officers. Rona recognized his voice. It was the cop she had met the first time she visited the construction site. He was attempting to catch up with her, but she was several flights above him when he got to the stairwell. “Hey! Stop!” he called.
Rona ignored him as she bounded up the stairs. She followed the path she’d originally taken, coming out on the floor that she’d landed on earlier. She climbed through the window that she had come in on and out onto the ledge. In one leap, she cleared the street and landed on a lower rooftop the next building over. She continued running once she landed. She leaped onto the next building which was quite a few stories shorter than the previous one. She tucked and rolled to her feet and continuing her sprint. She jumped down onto the top of the parking garage and grabbed the edge with both hands. She swung into the garage and landed on the pavement in a crouched position. Her chest heaved in and out as she gathered her breath. She dusted herself off and casually walked down the stairs of the parking garage.
Okay, she had learned that these hooded figures called themselves the Infernal. They worshiped a demon known as The Eyes. Or was it the Master? Either way this “master” had given them power. They were strong. And their leader had a scary amount of firepower. But they were human, or at least they had once been. That didn’t make a lot of sense to Rona, but that had to be the case. They were most definitely after the boy, just as Angelica had said.
And he didn’t stand a chance.
That worried Rona. She felt the sudden need to go and check on him. The ambulance that had picked him up had the words: “Denver Health” printed on the side. Rona unfolded the map and found a hospital with the same name a few miles from where she was. It was on the way home, so she decided to chance a short visit, just to make sure that he was okay.
Visiting hours were over when she arrived. The receptionist told her what room Virgil was in and that she should come back the following day. Using the hospital map to triangulate exactly where Virgil was, Rona found the window to his room from outside. He was only on the third floor. Rona made the easy climb up to his room. The light was off and he was alone. The window was ajar and Rona pushed it open, giving herself room to climb in. Virgil was asleep, but he didn’t look at peace. Rona wasn’t sure if it was pain, bad dreams or whatever meds they had him on that made him look so distressed. She kneeled down next to him, being sure to stay out of sight of the cracked door. She placed her hand on his forehead and hummed a soft, gentle melody. The tension in his face began to ease as she hummed. After several minutes, the tension in his body subsided as well until he seemed to be sleeping more soundly and peacefully.
“There you go,” whispered Rona.
She could hear footsteps coming down the hall.
“Are you Virgil’s mother,” said a voice.
“Yes, I just stepped out to grab something to eat. I’m going to spend the night,” said a woman’s voice.
Rona slipped back through the window before anyone came in the room.
She’d come back to visit again if she could.
At least now Virgil knew who she was.