Chapter 19: Retribution

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In her dreams, Jane was back in the stone temple atop Mount Naridnya. The needles of Nikolay's magic pressed on her mind, caging her thoughts, threatening to break her.

Nikolay turned toward her—smiling, crazed. She met his eyes, awaiting her next command.

"Kill your brother," he said.

She awoke drenched in sweat, her heart pounding.

It was still dark. The clock on her dresser read 11 PM.

Someone had placed slippers beside her bed while she slept. She put them on and padded to the door.

Sandra was sitting at the kitchen table when Jane entered. She seemed hard at work at some phone game or other, but at the sound of Jane's footsteps, she looked up, surprised. "You're awake!" she said. "I thought you'd sleep all night."

"Where is everyone?"

"Still at the hospital. Mom flew in earlier. She came here first to check on you, but then she decided to let you sleep. She's with Phillip now."

The house was eerily quiet. Jane felt suddenly uneasy. "How is Phillip?" she asked, rummaging around in the cupboard for a granola bar.

"He's all right. He might need minor surgery. Mom didn't seem concerned." Sandra crossed her arms. "Now that you've gotten some sleep, I have a lot of questions—"

"Has anyone checked on Nikolay?" Jane interrupted.

Annoyance flickered in Sandra's eyes. "Phillip told me not to go upstairs until they got back. And speaking of Nikolay... when are we going to tell mom and Uncle Bauer there's a homicidal lunatic in our house?"

Jane pressed her lips together. She abandoned the kitchen cupboards, which were irritatingly bare, and opened the refrigerator.

"There's pizza," Sandra offered. "They're yesterday's leftovers, but they should still be good."

"Can I borrow your phone?" The pizza went onto a plate, next to a glass of water. Briefly, Jane thought about microwaving the plate, then snorted. Cold pizza was more than Nikolay deserved.

She tucked Sandra's phone into her back pocket and grabbed a frying pan in her other hand. "If you don't hear anything in ten minutes, call the cops."

At the attic door, Jane set down the plate, suddenly having second thoughts. They had tied Nikolay up with rope, but that meant very little. The man had managed to escape from the highest-security pit cell in Sengilach. She doubted a few bungee cords and attic locks were enough to contain him. The bastard was fiendishly resourceful, and she wouldn't put it past him to ambush her the moment she stepped inside.

If he was even still in the attic at all.

Jane raised the frying pan. Then, deciding she might as well get this over with, she kicked the door open.

The attic was a shambles. Boxes were torn open, their contents scattered around the room. In the far corner, a file cabinet had been upended. Jane hadn't seen so much chaos since a raccoon had ransacked their parents' bedroom when she was five.

Jane gritted her teeth and waded into the mess.

Nikolay lay on the futon, his eyes closed. He'd somehow managed to get his hands unbound. On the floor beside the futon lay a pile of old photographs. The top photo showed a young woman with golden hair. She was decked out in graduation regalia and holding a high school diploma, smiling the same sort of cheeky, open-mouthed smile Jane had often seen Sandra make when posing for the camera. Next to her stood Uncle Bauer, beaming with fatherly pride.

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