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D Is For Damien: Chapter 16

A Strike

THEY WERE SURPRISED to be greeted outside by an irritated-looking Mabarak. He was leaning against his dusty "land barge" again, flipping his knife; he put it away as soon as they came out. Damien and his uncle shared more than just a glance. Uh-oh, the look said. Something doesn't look too good here.

Damien stepped forward, the first to speak. "What is it?"

"Have you two lost your damn minds, or what?" Mabarak fumed.

Another shared look. "What are you talking about?" Father Damien asked.

Mabarak stood up straight and pointed an accusing finger at them--with how sharply he pointed it may as well have been his knife. "Don't think I don't know what's going on!" he hissed. "You've been in contact with some nut who thinks he's with Scorpio, and he's been telling you things."

Damien turned defensive. "How would you know that? You got a tap on us or something?"

"Just shut up about that," Mabarak shot back. "The truth of the matter is that this guy has nothing whatsoever to do with Scorpio. You hear me? Nothing. So you just forget all he's said to you and let it drop." The lieutenant stormed around to the car door, flung it open and got in, and slammed it shut. The engine started with a rusty roar. It tore out of the parking lot with a squeal, leaving behind it a trail of dust.

Damien attempted to wave the dust away again. "Charming," he muttered.

"Let's go. It's getting late," Father Damien said wearily, and they did.

It was late. When Damien reached home he looked upstairs and found Harvey and Ez to be already asleep, snuggled in their beds with the fans going. The long day must have tired them out. He shut off their fans and looked around the rest of the house. No one else in the house seemed to be awake either, though he heard some faint music from someone's room; he knew that somebody else in the house besides him might often fall asleep listening to music also, so he didn't wonder. He felt tired but also edgy, and he couldn't sleep when he was edgy. He knew. He'd had a lot of experience lately to find that out. He silently went back out onto the porch to look outside. On the way there he caught a glimpse of himself in the fullview mirror. He paused, looking. A golden-eyed young man stared back with a sort of faint curiosity. He pulled the D out from under his shirt and looked at it, then at his reflection, in the pale light. After shining it a little--for some reason it would shine even when there was barely any light around--he put it back in place and went outside to calm his jittery nerves.

It was slightly cool out now, cooler than the past nights. Summer was ending. He shivered a little but quickly got used to it; one always had to get used to this kind of Midwestern weather. He took a deep breath and let it out, trying for peace. Just standing there under the moth-attracting porchlight didn't help, so he walked down the driveway and out to the highway, looking to the north. The Aurora Borealis was streaming brilliantly, at least as brilliantly as it does in Michigan this time of year, and once in a while he could make out a faint beam of light from the distant Cheboygan airport cutting across the sky. The stars were out, spattered across the airport's beam. There was a gibbous moon high above. For a moment Damien just stared up into the sky. "So much light," he thought aloud, "and yet so much more darkness."

"My thoughts exactly," an unfamiliar voice behind him growled, and before he could turn something struck him sharply against the back of his neck. The blow sent him falling to the ground, senseless. There were more stars now, only these were in his own head, and then the inevitable darkness once again took over.

He never knew what hit him.

Dimness. Was that faint light he could see? It had been dark for so long. He wasn't even certain he remembered what light looked like. But it must be light. And then a voice, calling to him, calling his name. "Damien," it said, very, very faintly. "Damien!" The light grew steadily brighter. He felt as if he were just awakening from falling asleep and then sinking underwater, and was just now realizing where he was. The voice was growing less and less distant, and as it seemed to come nearer he could recognize it as that of someone he knew, only he couldn't remember the name. His uncle? No. Harvey? One of the kids? No...Dino. It had to be Dino. Who else could it be? He finally found the strength to open his eyes. A brilliant light flooded through his pupils. The sun was shining directly in them; no, not the sun; it was an artificial light. A lamp? He squinted and managed to turn his head a little. There was Dino, hovering over him. He looked slightly worried, but on seeing Damien awaken a large grin spread across his face. "Great," he said with relief. "You're finally awake. We thought you were conked out for good!"

Damien sat up. As he did so he groaned and put his hand to the back of his head. It was throbbing--he felt like someone had filled his cranium with nails and was rattling it like a pair of dice. He opened his eyes again and looked around the room. As soon as the haze cleared he saw that he was on the living room couch. All the others were there--Father Damien, Harvey and Ez, and the other people who lived with him. "Ohhhh," he groaned, and fell back on the pillows. "What happened?"

"You were knocked out for a while there," Father Damien replied. "The others called me last night and told me you weren't home yet, and I thought that was strange, so I came over and found you lying in the driveway. You've been out all night."

Damien continued rubbing his neck under the pillows. "What time is it? And what hit me?"

"About ten o'clock," Dino said, "and we don't know."

It seemed as if he had suddenly recovered his breath from being knocked out so abruptly, and he put his hand to his chest in an effort to still his heart from beating so fast. It was then that he noticed something was wrong. With a start he sat up and touched his chest with both hands, then started frantically looking around him, throwing off the pillows.

"Where is it? Where did it go?" he cried.

The others backed away with surprise, thinking maybe he was having a fit. "What, Damien?" his uncle asked, putting out a hand and trying to calm him down. "What are you looking for?"

"The D!" Damien exclaimed. "It's gone! They took the D!"

Everybody looked at each other.

"That means..." Dino started uncertainly.

"...They have two of the D's," Harvey finished. He hopped from foot to foot. "Oh, Father Damien, what'll happen now if they find the diamond D?"

"Calm down," Father Damien said, now putting a hand on Damien's shoulder in an attempt to stop him from thrashing as he searched. "Maybe it fell off when you were knocked out. Maybe it's in the grass near the highway."

"I'll go look!" Harvey offered. In a flash he was gone.

"But that's not what happened!" Damien insisted. "I was out there and I heard somebody say something--I can't remember--and then there was this flash and I was out. Somebody knocked me out to get the D!"

"In any case, Harvey will find that out in a minute," his uncle replied. "Katrina--" he turned to Kat, who was also standing nearby, looking dubious, "--go out and make sure Harvey doesn't get lost out there."

"Lost?" Kat asked, baffled. But Father Damien gave her a look, and she nodded understandingly and turned to go. "Oh, right. Lost. I get your drift." She disappeared out the door.

The others, also getting his drift, left as well, several glancing back at Damien with sympathy as they disappeared. Damien tried to ignore them as he hated that look. Ez was the last one left, but sighed and also quit the room rather than risk being yelled at for being nosy. The only three left then were Damien, his uncle, and Dino.

Dino shuffled his feet uncomfortably, obviously feeling like the third wheel. "I think I'll go check on Ez," he murmured. "See if she wants to do anything." He too left.

Damien put his head in his hands. "This is all going too fast," he said, shaking his head. "They've got two. What happens now if they find the last one? We can't let them do that!" he cried, looking up at his uncle pleadingly.

"Calm down," Father Damien said again. "They've got your D, so now there's nothing we can do about that. But they don't know where the last one is hidden. We'll have to find it and get it before they do."

"But how do you find something that's been lost for years?" Damien asked, trying to keep the desperation out of his voice.

Father Damien sat down on the couch beside him and locked his hands. "I couldn't tell you where it is," he admitted, "but I think I know a way we can find out."

Damien looked at him with some surprise. "How? No one knows where it is!"

"I wouldn't say that," his uncle said, cocking his head and holding up a finger. "There is someone who should know where it is. Or more likely several people. And that could pose a problem for us."

"A problem?" Damien exclaimed, standing up abruptly and ignoring the wave of dizziness that swept over him. "That sounds more like the solution to the problem!"

Father Damien shook his head. "Not likely," he replied.

Damien sighed with exasperation and flung out his arms. "Why?" he just about yelled.

Father Damien didn't look up at his nephew as he spoke. "Because," he said softly, "the only ones who know were with Scorpio."

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