His words flowed in a cadence I found distancing to my thoughts, and I really didn't listen after a bit. I tuned in to hear him say, "Hell, I'm not exactly sure how much further you want me to go back," yeah, I'd missed a bit. That said I didn't think that he was trying to stall but that he wasn't honestly sure where Harry wanted him to start telling everything he knew.
Caleb jumped in before either Harry or I could reply with, "Dude, just spit it all out. They will ask you more questions if you aren't answering them right. But you so don't want to be stupid and like, skip anything. There's nothing but smoke and pollen floating on the wind outside -- check it," Caleb spun the laptop he'd been watching around to William Gregory so he could watch the live stream of cameras on the screen.
As Caleb rapidly clicked through full sized images outside in the midafternoon haze, I saw the human's eyes bolt open in shock. A picture may well be worth a thousand words, but Caleb's rapid flashing over the outside camera views for Commander William Gregory struck deeply. Now as far as he could see on the various camera shots that Caleb displayed there was nobody coming to rescue him much less the few remaining survivors of his team. The view set the human straight and he began to speak with more depth, filling in his story without any further prodding. Both Harry and I knew that there could be another wave of attackers but so far we seemed to be in the clear.
"Damn," the word was softly uttered then Commander William Gregory began adding even more to his rambling recounting of his story.
"My mission was to destroy any and all occupants of this address with extreme prejudice. Nothing was to be allowed to escape, not a mouse or a cockroach. Those were verbatim my instructions. We had to kill anything that came out of the house no matter if human or something weird. Those instructions were specific -- we were not to make any assessments of the creatures as friendlies or innocents. Once we obtained the objective, we were to burn the house down and literally salt the very earth the house stood over immediately. No arguments. Because as we were told, you all are dangerous," here he paused and I watched him struggle with something.
He resumed, "Okay, I thought this was way overkill and unnecessary to the mission. One of my lieutenants," he gulped obviously remembering the blowing dust outside along with the coyotes and dogs wrestling over femurs and skulls, "well, ah, he asked why. The answer was given with a jolt of something black from the fingertips of one of the leaders. My lieutenant stumbled to his knees and then stood up sharp like he was jerked up from the top of his head without his knowledge. Once he was back on his feet all proper, he said that he understood, then fell in behind me."
I could see that there was a bit more to what he had seen and felt, but I wasn't looking for any clarification yet. From Gregory's own words the spellcaster had used some nasty spell; that was good enough for me. Harry's brisk nod to me made it clear that he was in agreement with my thoughts. We let the human pick up his tale without asking any questions.
"We were tasked with dropping off a few outsiders before we got in visual range," Harry looked up from his cell phone, that he'd been tapping away as the man spoke. He asked, "Number?"
The man paused and struggled then said, "Five."
Harry's fingers flew over his phone and he indicated with the roll of his hand for the man to keep talking. After a few more seconds the human began to tell the finer details of his mission. I admit to again mentally drifting as all of this crap was moot as nearly everyone involved was dead or being digested by the local beasties. Harry smiled to me after reading a long reply then mind-spoke to me -- unasked -- but I allowed him inside, 'Bethany, with the one in the tree all five are accounted for by my team.'
'Thanks, Harry, now out.' I locked mentally the latest spot he'd discovered to enter my thoughts with vampiric mind-speak. I focused back on William Gregory's monologue. He'd really warmed up to explaining his mission and began detailing all the cool toys he and his team had been given. Then he ventured into the discussion of the new members who had been put into the vehicles. They were supernaturals and witches with a few enhanced humans. He admitted to not choosing his raiding party. But as he spoke it was clear that he didn't feel like he actually had any choice. He stumbled with his descriptions of the newcomers, but he'd used enough words that we all knew who or what he was talking about on the ride-alongs.
Finally, he came to his fellow survivors in the two cells next to his.
"The werecat, Whitney, was part of the door knocking team along with that witch-crone, Marie Rose. They weren't from my personal crew but just explained as being like another needed part of the weapons we loaded into our vehicles. I didn't ask any questions by then. I'd already concluded that this mission wasn't anywhere near a normal op." Here he slowed again as if rolling his answers around his brain before speaking; he also was looking massively drained. He had perched on the edge of the cot while telling us everything he could remember. None of us stopped him as he'd stumbled towards the cot. We could all see he wasn't doing well. We all knew that his stop and go answers weren't due to stalling but his state of life. We needed any and all of his story and fast.
He resumed his accounting with a lighter voice, it wasn't something that he was consciously doing. It was obvious that he was unsure how we'd like this part of his story. I did notice that he sat up straighter against the cot as if stiffening his spine for the coming information and the possible consequences. He wasn't ignorant of the problems ahead just hopeful that he'd get a chance to slaughter us despite the bars and spells.
"Here's the thing: before the mission team left the command center, I was asked to go into this room I'd swear hadn't been there before the door was opened that night. I mean it was the supply closet for as long as I'd been working from that location." His eyes had widened at his memory. A faulty one for sure, he'd just been unaware of how witches worked. As he began telling us just how he'd found out he was being commanded by witches and other dark creatures I could see his mind wasn't fully in denial but pretty damn close.
Harry listened for a bit then asked, "Commander Gregory, at any time were you ordered to take your own life or that of your fellow team members?"
A look of confusion danced across the man's face before it went totally blank. It was then that we saw there was another spell that had been cast on the human before he'd been set out to attempt to kill us. He was under another's control still, despite our iron bars and having him strip naked and change into the clothing Harry had supplied.
Jasmine made a deep noise in her throat. I knew without spinning around that Miguel was pushing to have his voice heard. Harry said, "Allow the dead vampire a voice, Jasmine." It wasn't a request I noticed. Harry was getting just as edgy as I was. There was so much going on that I knew was bad, like really bad.
Jasmine let out a sigh and the back of the room went icy cold. I turned unconsciously as I had to watch what was happening behind me and be ready to react if needed. Miguel was rising to the front of Jasmine and I saw that Morgan had removed his arm from around his lover. He didn't jump up from the couch, but he was distant from her as if he'd moved.
A deep nasty chuckle burst forth as Miguel settled into his witch's skin. She shifted beneath her own skin and Miguel's face -- masculine in bone structure and his tilt of head. His voice came from her mouth as if from a distance -- the distance of beyond the grave as it were.
"This human, Commander William Gregory, has a vampire's blood under his skin. Not because he has been turned, but a different way. A very ancient way." Here Miguel laughed a dark evil sound that made me want to slash him out of Jasmine with a dull blade. But something he said rang true. This wasn't a minion of another Master vampire but a Dark Art incantation that I dimly recalled from my human witch family childhood. I had heard about this incantation in darkness of night from the lips of the ancient coven members that made up my past. It wasn't done even all those centuries ago.
'Harry,' I opened up the vampire mind speak quickly, 'this is really ancient and bad. Like from what I recall a world-changing bad spell.'
Harry's face was unchanged as he quietly answered in my vampire mind speak, 'Bethany, do you have any idea how to break this spell? Does Jasmine possibly have any incantations to fix this?'
I gave it a quick thought and said, 'Not Jasmine. Miguel may be able to do a spell but at what cost?' I admitted to Harry while rapidly trying to figure out if I could much less would risk my very existence to break the Commander free from this ancient spell work. I shut my eyes for a moment and turned back to concentrate on the damaged man caged before us. This wasn't something I wanted to do in front of everyone, but I felt like time was ticking and the bomb was inside my basement waiting to explode.
Just then Caleb interrupted with, "Guys you need to see this right now!"
My eyes snapped open and I saw something was happening on the laptop screen. The monitor was spun towards Harry and me. Morgan, Jasmine and Zach were rapidly clicking up the same images on their laptop. Caleb had been monitoring the various cameras both inside and outside the house. Harry had requested him to watch and to make sure nobody or nothing snuck up on us while we got to the bottom of our little invasion. Instead of seeing the screen filled with new folks trying to kill us he was looking at the room where Harry told Valerie to bandage up her wound and get inside a salt circle afterwards.
It took a minute for me to focus properly on what was happening in the bedroom. From the screen I could see that Valerie had fallen and landed with part of her body outside the heavy salt circle. And to my stunned eyes I could also now see that Valerie was literally rotting. Caleb uttered a sound of disbelief as Valerie's arm - the one the crone, Marie Rose, had ripped off a strip and eaten -- the flesh was putrefied and rapidly decaying outward through all of her exposed body. That included her chest, neck and head. Yeah, Valerie wasn't looking so good. Near as I could figure the saliva on her skin had kept the witch's connection and the spell hadn't been severed properly.
Harry sighed and said, "Zach, quickly head up and see if you can pull that spell off her now."
Zach audibly swallowed and headed up the stairs. I knew without any doubt that there wasn't anything the null could do to save the East Coast witch. The screen kept showing her rapid death as if fast forwarded. I could hear Zach thumping across the library and through the hall as he raced to attempt the impossible. As Zach came into view in the bedroom, we all watched Valerie's head and upper body turn to a dark pile of ash. The half of her inside the salt ring was also decaying but at a slower rate. The entire thing was over in a few minutes.
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