3412 Abby Ln
A long soft sigh escaped Amelia’s lips. Birdsong wafted in from out of the darkness and she jerked upright, eyes wide and hands sliding over her belly. She panted, scanning the tiny room, before swallowing and pursing her lips.
Where was she?
Light spilled in from a small window adjacent to the bed atop which she rested and she peered through it. A large elm’s branches spread out into the sky, blocking her view of most of the street beyond.
“Oh thank god,” a voice said from the doorway and Amelia’s head jerked sideways to face the newcomer.
Amy blinked, watching the blond girl, unable to look away. “Ashley, what the hell are you doing here?”
“Well,” Ashley grinned leaning against the door frame one hand on her hip. “It’s nice to see you too.”
The agent released a lengthy breath and let out a low throaty chuckle with a slow shake of her head. “I mean, it is a relief to see a familiar face, I just didn’t expect you to be here.”
“How did I—” Amy stopped looking around the room.
“Get here?” Ashley finished folding her arms across her chest. “It’s a long story, but the short answer is I found you and brought you here.”
Amelia arched an eyebrow. “And the long answer?”
The younger woman pursed her lips, stepped into the room and closed the door behind her.
“Probably best if no one else heard this,” she winced and ran a hand through her shock of flaxen hair. She moved across the room, sat beside Amelia on the bed, placing a hand on the agent’s knee. Then with a long release of air she spoke. “I guess I should start by telling you that Sapphira’s in the hospital.”
That caught Amy’s attention, she regarded the other woman, eyes going wide. “What?”
“She collapsed a several days ago, after taking a call from an Idaho area code. And before you ask, I don’t know what’s wrong with her. Nobody does. I wish I had better news.”
Amelia pressed her lips together and bowed her head. A tear ran down her cheek, but she wiped it away before peering back up at her companion.
“Probably, the work of one of our friends,” the agent said with a slight quiver in her voice. “I have reason to suspect there’s a mole inside AEGIS, they were probably afraid Sapphira would come to my rescue when I disappeared.”
Or else raise hell if I turned up dead. Amelia added, but didn’t trust herself to voice that notion.
Her heart ached at the image of Sapphira sitting inert in a hospital bed somewhere. Throughout this entire ordeal she hadn’t once considered trying to contact her partner. Why was that? She swallowed reflecting back to Ashtar’s warning that she was being influenced and tasted bile in her throat. Maybe, Leoffa had influenced her in more ways than one.
“Shit,” Ashley cursed. “I was afraid it was something like that.”
“Tell me the rest,” Amelia said biting the inside of her cheek.
Ashley did, apprising her of her travels to Tondzaosha, witnessing the police taking her into custody and everything from there up to finding Brian van den Broeke trapped within his strange luminescent prison. She would have continued, but caught a gleam in Amelia’s eyes and paused, regarding her friend, eyebrows furrowed.
Amelia didn’t speak, instead thinking back to when she’d reached into Leoffa’s mind. There had been a brief flash and images very like those described by Ashley. There must be some connection.
“What happened after that?” Amelia asked, stroking her chin, her lips pressed in a thoughtful expression.
“Well, I tried for a good thirty minutes to reach him, and then… well, things got even stranger…
“Okay, that’s not working.”
Ashley threw a fist out in frustration. It impacted the space above Brian van den Broeke and a dull metallic thud sounded.
“Perhaps, you should hit it again, miss. I’m sure it will work better the fourth time.” Nabu’s voice intoned in her ear.
Ashley growled under her breath, but didn’t dignify him with a reply. Instead she turned away and clenched her eyes releasing a steady breath. “I don’t suppose you have any ideas, Nabu, do you?”
“No, miss, this is quite beyond my area of expertise.”
“I hate to say this, but if there’s nothing I can do here, it may be time to—”
“Miss, as loath as I am to interrupt, I am detecting a spike in energy readings.” Nabu spoke, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “Perhaps you may wish to give it another look.”
Ashley spun around as a high-pitched screech rang through the air. The lights above Brian‘s inert form pulsated and intensified and he sat bolt upright…
“Andy!” He screamed the name, repeating it over and over, hands clutching the side of his head.
The lights swirled faster and faster, growing so bright that Ashley winced and brought a hand up to shield her eyes. A whoosh of air blew into her and she braced herself as a surge of energy cascaded out in every direction. The illumination grew so intense that she closed her eyes and averted her gaze.
Once her vision cleared, she lowered her hands and moved toward Brian. He watched her approach with wide eyes.
“Impostor, betrayal… sword. Blood gushing.” He mumbled peering past Ashley’s armored form almost as if she were not even there.
He hugged his knees and rocked back and forth, several long sobs escaping his lips. “She will die.”
“Who?” She demanded, her voice coming out as a low guttural growl through the suit’s voice changer.
He didn’t answer, instead he threw his head back and a raw, wheezing manic laugh sounded from his mouth. “The one who was king… her blood everywhere,” he mumbled. “My brother who’s now my sister. Times ticking… ticking… out through the window…”
Ashley didn’t hesitate. She lurched forward, armored form shooting through the bedroom window, glass shattering and cascading across the front lawn in her wake. Heart hammering in her chest, her destination already in mind, she shot into the open sky above. She couldn’t say why, but she was certain that he’d been speaking of Amelia. It sounded like the ravings of a madman, but somehow she understood that the danger was real.
“You just left Brian there?” Amelia cut in her disbelief reflected in her emerald eyes.
“I freaked out…” Ashley grimaced one hand kneading the back of her neck. “I didn’t stop to reflect, I just acted.”
“If it makes you feel better, I came back for him after. He was still there, at least in the physical sense, but mentally… Well, let’s just say he’s a few bricks short of a load.”
Amelia’s lips trembled and a sob escaped her lips. “All because that woman was trying to get to me.”
She wiped the tears from her eyes and regarded her blond friend who was now shedding a few tears of her own. When the agent spoke her voice trembled. “So? I guess you found me.”
Ashley nodded, swallowing hard. “Uh, yeah. I figured since the police had you, you’d probably be at the station, and sure enough that’s where you and the girl were, unconscious in a pool of blood. Shit, I thought you were dead. After I went back for your brother, I brought everyone here.”
“Kruhl?” Amy asked, but her friend just blinked. The agent sighed, closed her nice and massaged her temple. “The short blond woman.”
“Oh! She’s fine, I think. She hasn’t woken up yet. There was blood all over her when I happened upon you guys, but I couldn’t find any cuts or scrapes, I guess none of it was hers.”
“And Brian?” Amelia asked staring back at her swallowing hard.
“Asleep, last I checked.” Ashley brushed the hair away from her face. “And there’s something else…”
Amy gaze intensified her eyes boring holes into the other woman. “Um, I didn’t know any safe places… and who to trust. I didn’t even know what was wrong with you so I, uh…” she trailed off wincing under the scrutiny of her friend’s gaze.
“You what?” Amy asked a sinking feeling forming in the pit of her stomach.
“I worried you would need medical attention and since the files Malcolm gave me said your mother was a nurse…”
“Oh, god,” Amelia sighed glancing around. “Don’t tell me this is her place.”
“No! Actually,” Ashley jerked her head from side to side. “But she’s here. She said this place belonged to a friend.”
Amy sighed and gritted her teeth. Just when she thought things couldn’t get any worse, her mother gets thrown into the mix.