The next morning Riley woke from a restless sleep. She had spent most of her night in her own thoughts, wanting to deny what had happened yesterday. In the stillness of the early morning though, she had finally reached acceptance that it had happened, and a hatred began to settle in her heart.
“What happened was not your fault,” Grace’s voice whispered to her.
“No, and he will not get away with it. He will pay for her and every other spirit he has done that to.”
“Don’t allow him to consume you,” Grace’s voice was concerned.
“I can’t promise that. I do promise to do everything that I can to ensure the team is able to stop him either way.”
Riley tried to close herself off from the panic this caused the spirits as they began to disconnect and connect again. She got into the shower and spent a little longer than she ought to have, allowing herself to cry and purge some of her emotion. She knew when this was over, if she made it, she was in for a rough time.
When she finished her morning routine and walked out of the bathroom, she noticed Daniel was still asleep, so she decided to leave him be. She pulled out her walkie to contact base.
“I am awake,” Daniel said when he heard her.
“So get more sleep?”
“Unlikely,” he groaned then got up. “I will meet you at the base soon,” he said, entering the bathroom.
Riley was waiting by the open door when Ethan arrived. “How are you this morning?”
“The same as yesterday, just a slightly more functional version.”
“Perhaps you should get more sleep?”
“No, I need to work right now,” Riley said, moving by him quickly.
“Riley, if that is what you need, that is fine. I am not rejecting your help, only trying to offer,” he said as he quickly hurried up to match pace with her.
Riley stopped and sighed. Her gut was twisted both with feelings of doubt with Ethan and feeling as though she were being harsh and unfair. “I am sorry, I just can’t right now.”
“That is fine, just know all I am trying to do is ask what you need.”
Riley didn’t acknowledge him, only continued to the base leaving Ethan feeling disappointed and tired. When they arrived at the base, Riley noticed that Emily had shifted her research focus a little. Riley also had an idea, but she didn’t know if it was possible, so she kept it mostly to herself while she dug in. The group spent the day making sandwiches and rotating naps, but mostly everybody stayed close and was working either on finding his name or a new technique to confront the spirit.
“Want to know her name?” Riley heard the shade once again.
“Go away,” the group heard Riley say and started to focus on her in case something happened.
“It was Amanda. Only 16. It took me nearly a day to finally kill her. The poor thing really deserved to see what was in the next life. Too bad you failed her.”
“Go away!” Riley said more defiantly.
“How can you live with yourself, knowing you didn’t save her.”
Ethan noticed Riley’s face turn colder and moved forward. “Riley,” he warned gently.
“You know what, you are just a chicken shit,” Riley snapped. “That’s why you choose young women, that’s why you torment them for so long, if anybody stands a real chance against you, you hide like you are doing now.”
“Is that what you think empath?” The voice grew angrier.
“That’s what I know,” Riley snapped back and then felt her body drop.
“Riley!” The group screamed out as she was dragged from the room by her hair.
Riley kicked a little but tried to keep it together, this is what she wanted.
“You want to challenge me, empath?” he yelled.
“Screw you!” Riley replied as she was thrown against the wall. She could feel his fury and his rage rising, and it was exactly what she wanted.
“You aren’t more powerful than me! Your team is not either! You are weak! You are nothing more than spoils!” he screamed, slapping her a few times.
Riley tried to remain focused, and finally, she could see it, just enough of his outline. “Then why don’t you take me on now!” she yelled, trying to urge him just enough.
“I am toying with you, not afraid!” he snarled, and it did the trick.
Riley grabbed onto his face and focused herself on his eyes, trying to latch on to him. He slammed her against the wall again, realizing what she was doing, but she stayed connected. Her vision faded a little, and she was in a foggy city at the turn of the century. She didn’t bother looking around, though only trying to follow the connection to him. She remembered what Timm had told her and pushed further, chasing the connection she had made.
“Get out of here, empath. I will kill you!” His voice seemed to be following her.
“You can’t, and we both know it!” Riley yelled back running, pushing, trying to find it. “There!” she said, stopping in front of a building and quickly reading the name. “Lord Thompson!” she yelled out! “London!” She said, and she felt herself being pushed from him. She hoped she had actually said the words loudly and clearly enough because she knew her body was taking more of a beating. When she was pushed out from him, she felt herself drop and then something pressing on her neck.
“Oh, you will see now empath!” the shade spoke and began to choke her.
“Sáncte Míchael Archángele, defénde nos in proélio, cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium. Ímperet ílli Déus, súpplices deprecámur: tuque, prínceps milítiæ cæléstis, Sátanam aliósque spíritus malígnos, qui ad perditiónem animárum pervagántur in múndo, divína virtúte, in inférnum detrúde. Ámen.” Daniel yelled out.
Riley sucked in a harsh breath as the shade disappeared from her. “Lord Thompson, London, turn of the century,” she repeated before coughing and rubbing her neck.
“You sure you don’t want to provoke him more, find out any other secrets?” Daniel questioned with unmasked sarcasm and anger.
“We can’t lose anymore.”
“So it had to be like this?”
“I researched to see if empaths could connect with spirits that didn’t want them to and found a site. It said loss of control would be necessary. I’d say it worked,” Riley struggled to get out.
“I see why you didn’t tell us beforehand,” Gabrielle said, rushing in with the first aid kit. “Help me get her back to the base,” she demanded of the group. When they got her to the couch with a lot of pain and discomfort for everybody, Gabrielle began to clean her up and check her neck.
“It was the best chance I could see. He is obsessed with me, and so I knew I would have the easiest time provoking him. Plus, now he’s even more pissed at me, so will be more focused on that and distracted. It’s an opportunity.”
“We don’t use people as bait! And we don’t have them purposely put themselves in so much danger!” Everybody was surprised to hear Miller snap.
“I wanted to make sure you at least had a name; you’ll need it for anything you discover. My life is not worth more than yours or the spirits that are still here. We need to get this over with.”
Ethan had been standing in a corner watching this unfold, barely restraining his anger, but finally, he couldn’t contain it any longer. “You get angry that I do not trust you, but then you pull something like this. We did not know what was happening or what your goal was and we were not prepared to prevent him from killing you, which he nearly did!” he yelled. “You cannot demand we treat you like part of the team and trust you as one of us then pull something like this. Had you at least told us what you were planning, yes, we would have tried to talk you out of it, but we could have at least been ready!”
“And he might have heard!” Riley yelled back, but everybody just shook their heads. Finally, Riley slumped. “You’re right. That was stupid of me. I honestly hadn’t planned it, in that moment he just provoked me with the spirit’s name, and I went on instinct.”
“But you were planning to do it at some point,” Daniel pressed.
“Yes, and I should have told you that.”
Emily finally looked at Riley’s computer. “You went far enough to close down the program, so I couldn’t see what you were researching.”
Riley nodded, “I did, I am sorry.”
“You have resigned yourself to death and are behaving recklessly,” Ethan said.
“I just want to make sure I am the only one that doesn’t make it out.”
“And it is my job to make sure the whole team does!” Ethan yelled. “Damn it!” He stormed out of the lodge with the door slamming behind him.
Riley felt even more guilty at that point. “Hell,” she said quietly.
“We don’t have to lose you to finish this,” Daniel told her, “You’re giving up.”
Riley didn’t answer.
“You can’t give up, it is part of what he doing. Yes, this is challenging Riley, more challenging than many have faced, but that does not mean it has to go this way,” Daniel said sternly. “And frankly, I am a little disappointed in you. You know your emotions are messed up, but you are just going along with him as far as you dying. Where is your fight? Where is your will? You want to help spirits, you want to help this team, part of that means being strong and wanting to keep going.”
“They aren’t wrong,” Grace’s voice echoed in her mind.
“You were the one that said I was going to die.”
“I have been trapped and afraid for a very long time. What I say doesn’t have to be true.”
Riley thought over what everybody had said when she felt dizzy.
Grace panicked and quickly darted around the room. “Help!” she yelled when she got to Miller just in time for them to see Riley’s eyes roll back in her head and her body start to convulse.
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