Things keep getting worse for our intrepid adventurer. MUCH worse.
The voice kept guiding Taylor. Whatever kind of car they were driving it was clear that it had more oomph than the SUV he drove. It didn’t help that he had no desire to get caught by the police, thus giving him far greater caution than they needed to exhibit. Still, he didn’t seem to be losing them.
“They only need to delay us. Can they summon the things or open the portal while they’re on the move?” He asked the question out loud, though he didn’t think he needed to.
“No. They will need to stop and make some sacrifices to do what they need done. It doesn’t need to be a big one, but the larger the amount of life force, the bigger the gateway.” The Mad Arab’s voice was real enough for Taylor to wonder if anyone else would be able to hear it.
“They have an endgame in place then.” Taylor banged on the steering wheel. “I need to know where they’re going. Maybe if I can figure it out, I can tell the police.” He gripped the wheel like he was trying to strangle it. “Not that they’ll believe me. And on top of that they have agents everywhere.” Despair clutched at his lungs. Seconds from what he was sure was either a coronary infarction or a full blown panic attack, he found a spot to pull over. The gas station was sparsely occupied.
He went into the blissfully cool store and scanned cooler shelves full of drinks. “Need to get somewhere safe, but they don’t have to worry about that. They could drive their car into a school bus and do what they need to do.”
“No, while simple, it’s not that simple. There are some basic steps that they need to perform.”
Taylor pulled a large soda from the cooler. The air that washed out was heavenly. “At least they have that going for me. They could just stop the school bus, say their chants and start slitting throats.” He held the cold bottle to his forehead. The air conditioner in the SUV was working, but he was still boiling in his skin. He sighed at the relief. “Or they could go into a school or a hospital and set off a bomb. The building comes down and the doorway to the other side opens up.”
He grabbed a candy bar and put his purchases on the counter. He looked forward to the sugar and caffeine rush, though he knew it would be short lived.
The woman behind the partition had eyes like saucers and her hands shook as she keyed in the snacks. “Will there be anything else, sir?” Her voice trembled.
Taylor took no notice of her trepidation and threw a bill through the slot. “That will do it. Just needed something to keep my spirits up.” He could feel a weird energy, familiar somehow. He squinted at the woman. She was just what she appeared to be. There was no evil Other riding her like a prized mare.
She took the bills and made change, while her off hand went under the counter. With the change pushed back through the slot, she brought the small shotgun up. “I don’t want any trouble sir. The police are coming.”
He picked up his change and the drink. The shotgun didn’t even register in his brain for a few seconds. “What? Police?” What was she going on about? He saw the gun. “I haven’t done anything.”
“I heard you talking about blowing up a school bus.” She poked the gun’s barrel through the transaction slot. “I will pull the trigger. Just wait here and the police will take you somewhere that you can be safe.” Judging from the way the end of the barrel shivered, she might just plug him full of holes accidentally.
This was exactly what the cultists wanted. They needed him to get thrown in jail or dead. Without a word, he dropped to his butt. It hurt, jarring his spine and leaving bruises. It was less painful than the shotgun would have been. He was close enough so when it went off the shot only destroyed the snack cake display behind him. Chocolate frosting and buck shot peppered the rest of the store. “Damn it.” He came up on his knees, grabbed the still hot shotgun barrel, and yanked.
Before the clerk could pump in a new shell or take a solid grip, the weapon ripped from her hands. She screeched like a tea kettle about to explode.
Taylor screamed. “You idiot, I want to prevent what I was talking about, not cause it.” He stood and pumped a shell into the chamber. His own hands shook, with rage not fear. A vein pulsed at his throat. The right knuckle of his index finger turned white. Returning fire wouldn’t help his case. “You’re helping the world to come to an end.” With incredible effort of will, he relaxed his finger. Shotgun held in one hand, he grabbed his candy bar and drink, and turned his back on the clerk. With more force than necessary, he hit the door with his shoulder.
A bald man with an incredible beard was on his way when the door almost hit him, making him backpedal. “Watch where you’re go-” He clutched at his chest when he saw the gun.
Taylor pushed past him and got into the SUV. At least he had a new weapon. Tires squealed as he raced out of the parking lot and down the street. Two patrol cars blew past him in the opposite direction, lights flashing. He kept his eyes on the road and the speedometer at a respectable level.
“You almost ended the world and for what? Sugar?”
Taylor jumped when the strange voice made itself known again. “I need energy. I’m not a ghost.” He ripped into the package with one hand and his teeth. The buttery toffee and chocolate filled his mouth. “Besides, at the rate I’m going, the world is down the toilet already. I need you to do something useful and tell me where they’re going. Whether you’re talking to me from beyond the grave or the expanse of time or the state of New Jersey, I don’t give a damn. Do whatever you can to tell me where they are going to perform the ritual.”
There was a silence and then the amulet’s maker spoke. “It has cost me some of my essence, but if you will head to this address, you will find them there.”
Taylor plugged the address into the dashboard GPS. He was horrified to see that he hadn’t been far wrong. It was taking them to a children’s hospital. He got clear of the traffic and flirted with getting caught as he pushed down hard on the gas pedal.