Chapter Twenty-Three, Another Chance

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Bennie only went to school at all the next two days because the thought of being home alone drove her nuts, and she knew being present in body saved her grades a little, even if her mind was not present. She stayed on the computer all night, aimlessly surfing the internet and finding no answers to the turmoil going on inside her.

She saw Sean online but he hadn't sent her a message, and she hadn't sent him one. They just sat apart in cyberspace, not sure what to say.

Bennie sighed, placing her head on the desk. She felt more tired than ever, but she couldn't have slept even with a sedative or a knock on the head with a mallet.

Her computer made a beeped at her; someone had messaged her. She looked up at her screen and saw a screen name she didn't recognize:

i have him.

"What?" Bennie said aloud, chills running down her spine as she read the message:

i have him: I assume you want your mentor back now.

Bennie stared at the message again; the spike in her chest was replaced by a throbbing, painful fear as she tentatively typed back.

Shadowchild7: Who are you? How did you get my screen name?

i have him: I have my ways of finding things out very easily, and I think you know perfectly well who I am. And I know who you are, Benjamina James.

Bennie stared at the computer as if it had spoken to her itself. Reyortsed? On the internet? It was almost funny.

i have him: Now, before you start asking me a bunch of stupid, redundant questions let me answer them: Yes, I have Perseus in my custody, and Guardians, such as he is, are prone to some unpleasant ends, but since I can see you won't want that, and I prefer not to kill people needlessly, I'm offering you a chance to save him.

Bennie's hands shook as she typed.

Shadowchild7: Why should I trust you?

i have him: Let me speak and I'll tell you why. You've noticed something about yourself, have you not? A strange mark, perhaps, on your shoulder?

Bennie held back a surge of panic. How did he know that?

i have him: You see, Shadowchild, that mark means something to me. It means you have something I desire more than anything else in the universe. It means little to you, if anything, and it'd be such a trifle for you to give to me, especially in exchange for your Uncle Perce.

Bennie knew he was manipulating her, but she felt something odd in herself. She really didn't care. What Reyortsed was saying made so much sense. She didn't even know what the mark meant, and if it was simply some sort of magical ability she couldn't even use, why did she need it? Perce was certainly worth more than that!

Bennie started shaking her head. No, he was doing something to her. He was trying to trap her...

i have him: Believe me, Bennie, you could never live with yourself if you knew you had the chance to save him, and instead left him alone to suffer and die at the hands of my officers. They're not as squeamish as I about that sort of thing.

Bennie was struggling hard to gain control of her senses, but the only sense she could find was what Reyortsed was saying. She started typing, defiance in the words she wrote and in her thoughts.

Shadowchild7: I don't believe you. And I don't trust you.

i have him: Why not, Bennie?

Bennie was quiet, still, watching the following messages come through.

i have him: If you accept my offer meet me at your school tomorrow at midnight, in the courtyard where you sent all of San Antonio into a blackout. Come alone, tell no one. I'll be waiting.

He signed off. Bennie didn't move again until she heard her mom get up downstairs for work.

The next night, Saturday night, at 11:00 pm, Bennie looked at herself in the mirror. She had dressed in the dark grey camisole, black pants, boots and long coat she had bought in Pelanca. She lifted her long hair and fastened the moonstone necklace Aila had given her around her neck.

11:40 pm, she waited.

This is foolish, Bennie thought to herself. You're not even through training yet. How are you supposed to beat someone if Reyortsed's just trying to trap you? Remember the lessons with Perce? 'Don't accept a negotiation proposal that requires you to go somewhere alone and unarmed?' Don't be as reckless as Perce.

Another voice argued with her, a musical, mystical whisper:

What makes you important enough for Reyortsed to kill? He only wants the power you don't even know about, and you'll never finish training without Perce.

No matter how Bennie argued with herself, about how she could train with others, the musical whisper tempted her back to saving Perce. He was the only father she had left in the world, and she couldn't give him up even if he wanted her to. And even if she went alone, wouldn't the Guardians watching her be close by? She had to try.

With mixed feelings, Bennie slipped out the door and headed to the school.

12:00 a.m., Sunday—

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