Chapter 18: Ramifications

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Chapter 18: Ramifications

My relief at bringing Lucia back from the brink of death was short-lived. As the sirens swelled from a distant howl to a soaring wail, we now had another problem: how the hell would we explain this to the authorities? When I'd originally returned to the human world from the Nosferatu compound with my amnesia story, there had been weeks to concoct and plan it. This time, we had minutes at best, and not much to work with. Lucia and I were both drenched in blood, but neither of us had a wound on us. The bullet-hole in her chest had closed as seamlessly as the cut I'd made on my arm. If the police tested our clothes or the puddle, the results would raise a lot of questions. This situation, I realized, was why Ephraim had made me swear never to use magic in the human world: it was far too easy to get in over your head.

And where was Ephraim? Injured? Dead? Lying bullet-ridden in the street next to Bruce? Collateral damage. Would I have to try to explain that too? I knew I should be doing something, but my worries kept me paralyzed in place next to Lucia, who was still lying in the same position she'd been in when I healed her. Her breathing continued to grow stronger and steadier, but she had yet to get to her feet or look at me or the damage to her mother's store. She hadn't even attempted to pull her shirt shut. Maybe she was feeling the same way I was. Overwhelmed, and all out of hope ‒ and ideas.

I was dragged out my drain-circling spiral of self-pity by the sound of someone pounding on the store's front door. The first impact nearly made me jump out of my skin. See, it's already too late.

"Girls, if you can hear me, open up." It was Ephraim.

Thank god.

I scrambled to my feet and crunched my way across the debris littering the store floor as fast as I could, which wasn't fast at all. I was weak and light-headed from expending so much magic, and my body ached wretchedly from my wipeout on the stairs. When I unlocked the front door and cracked it open, Ephraim slid in, then Bruce, who locked it again behind him. Neither looked as if they'd taken any bullets. Another miracle.

Ephraim stared at the blood on my clothes. Then, to my utter surprise, he reached out, spun me around and started patting me down, gently but very, very thoroughly. It took a long, bewildering minute, during which time I almost began to protest his intrusion, for me to realize he was looking me over for wounds. When he was confident I was free of injuries, he gazed past me to the puddle on the floor, in which Lucia was doing her best, though arguably inappropriate, impression of a corpse. "Is she-" he began, then she sat up, like Dracula in his coffin in one of those old black-and-white movies, and his words changed to "What did you do?" He sounded incredulous.

I expected him to ream me out right then and there, but instead he shot over to Lucia, yanked her up off the floor, and propelled her in my direction. She slipped, wobbled and nearly fell, but managed to reach out and grasp the store's cash counter to steady herself just in time. She scooped up my duffel bag and both of our jackets and joined me by the door. She put hers on immediately. I couldn't blame her; her top was hanging wide open where I'd ripped it in half to get access to the bullet hole. There hadn't been time to negotiate buttons.

"Good thinking," I whispered as she handed me my bag, amazed she'd just survived a near-death experience and yet still had more prescience than me.  If the cops saw what was inside it ‒ jar filled with a mysterious, bloody concoction; laptop full of magic books; my journal and letters to Keel ‒ it would only bring unwanted scrutiny. Then, because of who I was ‒ amnesia girl, just found ‒ the media would start sniffing around all over again, in hopes of finally getting their juicy story. What a nightmare that'd be. They'd probably jump straight to speculating satanism, and maybe even try to tie my disappearance to a cult.

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