I was still literally choking on all the murders that had happened inside the oh-so-innocent-looking coffee shop on the main street of Encinitas. I hadn't tossed my cookies, but my senses were overwhelmed. Stifling a rough cough, I glanced around and shook my head. Adrienne had used some serious glamour to cloak the multiple slayings and outright slaughters that had happened there over the years. What also pushed at the back of my mouth was the mind-numbing fear that accompanied the deaths of the humans and non-humans. They must have had some fierce soundproofing installed for their building.
Once Eddie zapped her, it all went away. My spell freezing her hadn't done anything to reveal it for me. No, it had taken the resident deity scrambling her mind to free the spell that she'd used to cover every square inch of the room, and with a quick glance up, I confirmed fluids also on the ceilings. I was stunned. Looking around, I saw that even a half-assed CSI team would have had no trouble pulling the blood spatter and DNA from all the liquids spewed and sprayed around the interior. Eddie had used his craft to drop her glamour when he put the whammy on her. I felt a churning in my tummy that I mentally pushed down with stubborn will power and not much more. If I'd been elsewhere without the present company I doubt I would have been able to keep it together.
The amount of energy running around the room was mind-blowing, and scarier than nearly everything I'd seen in my life. I knew in my heart if I showed just a whisper of fear, or revealed any of my terror, all of them would pounce on me given any chance. So instead I just sent out another quick, 'I am here, Sam.' And was relieved to feel that my mentor had gotten closer by his answering back with a quick and concerned, 'I am coming, Delilah. Hold on.'
"Well, this is fun. So when the boys get here are you going to hamstring them and make them confess?" Yeah, I was being snarky while masking my momentary distraction calling Sam and hearing him reply. Fortunately Eddie was distracted by his spell and hadn't noticed my mental activity.
Eddie laughed and said, "No, they won't confess because they don't know what is even going on here. Rena and Adrienne were guiding them astray. They are both much smarter than Matt and Bob. And once they started training the boys they knew that they had crossed a line. They brainwashed the princes to do their bidding and ignore any pesky concerns about the locals. The symposium made it perfectly clear that all four of them were to enjoy their lives and not interfere with any of the humans."
I noticed that he didn't include the non-humans. I guess for the various gods and goddesses that it was perfectly fine to kill the non-human sorts. Big shock -- not. The past few hours had revealed a side of Eddie that I hadn't been shown when I was watching the 'in-between-the-worlds' DVD that he sent into my mind. I still felt like years had passed while I watched the boys grow up and be captured by the young women. And since Jeff the cat looked to be at least a year older than when I'd brought him with me into that cavern, it was anyone's guess how much true time passed in their world versus mine. Thankfully I didn't appear decades older.
Just then the back door was loudly opened and Matt called out, "What the hell was so important that you summoned us from that totally killer surf?"
I was grateful that Tig didn't walk in, but given his claim of 'awesome surf' he was probably still riding the waves while Matt and Bob ran home at Adrienne's plea. Bob followed, saying, "This is so sucky. Why the hell are we here again and not out there surfing? It is totally breaking and we only got to catch a few sets!"
Together they walked inside with damp wetsuits still on the bottom halves of their bodies and their hair plastered to their heads. They'd caught some waves, but obviously not enough for them. The wetsuits half-peeled off their bodies were black and streaked with other colors, piping and cutouts with blues and greens for Bob's rugged form; Matt's had flames of red and orange down the sides of his lean legs. Their sand-crusted booties were squeaking on the flooring that I could now clearly see was laced with death. Blood and gore had been firmly etched into the very ground beneath their feet. Lovely images chased through my thoughts and I saw Eddie wince as he finally peeked into my mind. Hey, that's what he got for shoving his mind into mine.
Instead of freezing the boys, he said, "Welcome. Why don't you two have a seat and explain why I should spare your miserable lives?" I found it amazing that they didn't seem to be bothered by Rena and Adrienne's frozen forms. Maybe it was common, but I was betting it was more like they hadn't processed anything but that they were missing waves.
Looking at the sparking anger rolling over Eddie, I managed to figure out that he wasn't at all happy and could kill them. Ah, new twist in the story. I wanted to sit back with some popcorn and watch the Eddie Show but felt he might construe that as disrespectful. And he'd be damn right. I was tired of the games the self-absorbed deity had been playing. But it wasn't like I had any choice. He'd put some sort of spell inside me when I was in his care; I was slightly afraid to challenge the strength of it, and was going to play along while I waited for Sam. It seemed to be my only option at the moment.
The two troll boys looked stunned by the new turn of events but neither of them took a step closer to challenge Eddie. Instead, something like awe washed over their features as they noticed his glowing eyes and growing anger and finally Matt said, "You are one of the gods of our world, aren't you?"
Eddie beamed and glowed even brighter. It was most assuredly not human in any manner. Smiling at the adoration from Matt and Bob he said, "Yes, I am."
Then he turned and released both of the women while saying, "Piss me off and I'll end you here and now. Do you both understand?"
Rapidly looking around the room, the two women carefully nodded without speaking. It was then I noticed that both of their mouths were tightly shut, and I didn't think that they were actually able to speak. Eddie wasn't totally stupid it seemed. He didn't trust either of the witches -- sorceresses -- what have you. Probably smart given the ladies in question. Both Matt and Bob seemed far more controllable than the two women -- I knew that they most definitely had different agendas than the boys without even over-thinking it. I had seen them in their pasts, and 'pliable' and 'agreeable' would not be words used to describe either of them.
Eddie glared at the girls and said, "What were you thinking? Non-humans were open game, but no! You had to start killing the humans! This was not part of the bargain. I know it took you a few decades to read all the rules that we'd sent with you. We looked away while you figured out what was what, but this is unacceptable. You are killing at will, and not even considering who you are eating. Those two girls we just kicked free are children of extremely rich and influential men. Their deaths would not go unnoticed. And let's add into the discussion that the bodies of your past victims aren't nearly as unrecognizable as you think.
"The DNA of the victims was in federal and local databases, and as of last week four large bits and a few pieces that you'd chucked into the ocean came back in the stomach of a nuisance shark that was killed. So the body was naturally examined. The stomach contents were analyzed and found to contain bits of humans -- plural. Two days ago the DNA was matched with missing people on their lists and identified. You slaughtered the local theater group's semi-famous director and his equally missing lover. Everyone was told at the time of their disappearance that they must have run away. Given the wife was not aware of the existence of her husband's boyfriend, it came as quite a shock, but with their DNA on file the case was closed as a rogue shark attack during a moonlit swim. The wife wasn't happy, but the press was ecstatic. The news has been running day and night with various angles." That was the most I'd ever heard Eddie say from my short acquaintance, with the exception of his explaining the boys and girls here.
All four of them exchanged glances but didn't deny their culpability. I still was completely in the dark about what precisely was going on, but I kept my lips tightly sealed. Eddie was amped up and starting to crackle with energy. That wasn't a good thing as far as I knew.
Bob looked lost and asked, "Lord, what the fuck are you talking about? We only kill non-humans." His tone was even, but I could see a fine tremble in his fingertips that didn't seem to be related to the icy Pacific Ocean water temperature. More likely something was twitching in his thoughts, making him a tad worried. With the company he was keeping, I would be nervous also. But I was keeping 'company' with the resident, possibly sociopathic, deity so maybe I shouldn't go around so quick to judge.
I watched silently while Eddie spun towards Bob. Eddie flicked his fingertips and muttered beneath his breath another Latin word that I was pretty sure meant 'Liar.'
And just that fast Bob's mouth was thin-lipped and sealed by magic superglue. He was a mirror to the girls with a perplexed look on his face. I could see he was still dimwittedly trying to process just what had happened. Both the women snickered; soundlessly, but I could tell they were amused. There was a dark glint in Rena's eyes that didn't look particularly submissive and worshipful towards Eddie. She was hatching something, and I wanted to step outside to avoid the backfiring that was sure to occur. Eddie hadn't been honest with me -- from the beginning -- and I saw no reason for him to care if I lived or died by Rena's hand now that he had the four.
Quickly turning to me he hissed, "You are wrong. I do care if you live or die."
I quirked an eyebrow at him but avoided tempting fate by answering his comment. I waited to see if he would continue. He instead turned to Matt and said, "Prince Mastema, since you are the only one who hasn't pushed me too far, can you explain why this room is coated in death of humans and non-humans?"
A sly look crossed his face, and I could see him weighing the possibilities of joining his friends and family in silence versus really pissing Eddie off by answering him. I wouldn't even hazard a guess what was the better reply, but I wasn't the one being hauled in front of the god to confess their transgressions.
With a deep sigh Eddie released all three saying, "One of you want to answer or should I simply banish you all further away?"
A hiss of air and Adrienne spit out, "Bob didn't know because Matt said he'd feel bad. But you all abandoned us! We had nobody to pray to for guidance. I guess we weren't strong enough to resist the temptation."
It was a brilliant suck-up answer, but sadly Eddie saw through it and growled. It wasn't Jeff the cat in his throat but rather an angry sound of displeasure. This wasn't going well in the least.