Lucifer: Chapter 19
Into The Dark
A LATE MORNING breeze ruffled the grass in Washington Park. Damien made his way across the turf toward one of the benches not too far from the river. Elise sat there, and he could see her staring out over the water, her blond hair trailing around her shoulders. She didn't hear him approach and started a little when he sat down beside her. He didn't say anything, so they just stared at the water and the occasional boat or duck passing by.
"I hope you're not going to waste your breath," she said, after a long while. They didn't look at each other.
He shrugged slightly, his eyes tracing the contours of a swan as it glided past. "I already have. Several times. I just can't believe after all this you're going to throw yourself back in there."
She closed her eyes to gather herself. His persistence could be annoying. "I'm not 'throwing myself' anywhere, Dami. You make it sound like a den of lions."
"It's just as bad. Probably worse."
"I've handled it before."
"That means nothing."
Now she did look at him, her voice rising slightly though she still refused to shout. "I'm not helpless. I've made it this far on my own." A derisive laugh. "Look at it, though." She shrugged. "A one-room apartment facing the street. Buying groceries, going home. Sleeping. Yeah, I did make it this far. I've been at the same point for years now. Just once I'd like to be useful. So far I haven't. Take a look at yourself." She waved a hand at him, reached out, and tugged on the little cross he wore around his neck. He started to jerk back, as if she intended to rip it off by its chain or perhaps strangle him with it. However, she only rubbed it between her fingers, turning it this way and that so that the light glinted off it. She seemed to study herself in the silver.
"You made it this far," she nearly whispered. She let the cross go so that it fell back, hitting him in the chest. He could only stare at her, speechless. She looked into his eyes and smiled--and this time there was nothing of fear in it, only a slight sympathy which he somehow didn't find irritating or unwanted like he usually did.
"Just be sure you make the most of it," she said, getting up. She walked slowly away, one hand absently brushing back her long hair. Damien watched her go, a strange feeling of déjà vu taking hold of his senses. It wasn't that long ago that they'd both met in the park, but it was beginning to feel like years. Only this time he didn't get up to leave as well. He sighed and sat back, staring into the trees without really seeing them.
There was another thing both he and Elise didn't see. As she left the park, stopping to wait for a break in the traffic on Main Street, someone else watched her go. Derrick, standing near the payphone at the corner of the park, narrowed his eyes as she jogged across the street. He glanced back at Damien, still sitting on the bench in the shade. Then he turned abruptly away.
"Do you want to compromise?" Danser asked, looking at Elise. It was the next day, the day she intended on heading for the Scorpio compound. They were standing outside the police station, Officers Jones and Felman and Father Damien nearby. Damien noted with a pang of mixed guilt and embarrassment that he'd left a good bruise on the police sergeant's jaw; however, Danser appeared to be ignoring it, so he too said nothing. No use bringing it back up. The other thing he'd noticed was Elise's hair. It was no longer long and blond; now it was cut short, just to the middle of her neck, and dyed dark brown, almost black. He knew why she'd done that. Someone had already seen them together at the library, probably the same person who'd left the dead sheep in her apartment. As he had been too far away to get a good look Damien assumed he would recognize a young lady with long blond hair--not one with hair that was short and dark. He was surprised he'd never thought of it before--as well as surprised by the change in her appearance. "Do you want us to drop you off nearby, out of sight?" Danser continued. "We don't even know where this place is, you know."
"You can drop me off at the Lincoln Bridge," Elise said quietly. She was twisting a wire in her fingers. "I'll take it from there."
Danser, Damien could tell, truly wanted to see the alleged compound for himself. Damien, though he'd spent six years there, didn't know where it was either; Elise had told him and his uncle the field he'd been in hadn't been near it after all. The compound itself seemed to be in or near town; however, Elise wasn't telling them where it was. Damien knew why, too. She didn't want anyone following her.
"You're positive," was all Danser said.
He sighed, Damien was sure with some disappointment. "All right. Careful with that thing or you'll break it." Elise immediately quit twisting the wire. "You're positive also about that?" He cocked his head at it.
She nodded again. "I wear it till I get in, then I toss it. I can make it in without them seeing it. But I can't keep it on after that. They really might want to search me. I can toss it at the door. A lot of the place is empty so they shouldn't find it."
At Danser's prompting she'd finally given in on wearing a wire, so she could report on her situation; they had to know at least if she'd gained access or not, even if they couldn't keep track of her movements once inside the compound. Elise insisted it was simply too dangerous, and the others--Danser included--seemed to agree.
The cop nodded. Damien was surprised to see he truly looked sad that it was ending up this way. Maybe he had a bit of humanity in him after all.
Please Elise, just change your mind, Damien tried to will his thoughts into her head. We can all go back to what we had before, maybe Danser and Felman can help me find another way; just say you don't want to go.
Apparently the thought transferral didn't work. Damien had never believed in telepathy. Elise only let out a gusty sigh and straightened her arms. She bobbed her head. The others could tell she was extremely nervous. "Okay. Where does it go?"
Officer Felman stepped forward, taking the wire and placing it inside the collar of her shirt. When he moved away there was nothing to show she even had one on her.
"Lincoln Bridge?" Danser said.
"Okay. Come on to the car and I'll drive you there."
She and Danser started to walk away, behind the building where Danser's car was parked. After a couple of steps she stopped and turned back to look at the group still gathered out front. She smiled timidly at Damien and held up a hand.
"See you later," she said, her voice quavery.
Damien couldn't speak. His throat hurt, as if he'd just swallowed something big and couldn't get it down all the way. He knew what that feeling was. He could only nod and offer his own unconvincing smile. Uh-huh. Later.
Elise turned back and let Danser open the passenger-side door for her. She got inside. Danser shut the door and went back to his own side, also getting in and slamming the door. It was hard to see her in there; Damien could only make out her silhouette, her head dropping slightly so that her hair fell forward. It may not have been long anymore, but it was still just long enough to again shield her face. After he leaned over her to buckle her up--as she wasn't making any move to do so herself--and then buckling himself in, Danser started the engine. The others backed out of the way as he drove past, kicking up a cloud of dust and pulling out into the street. They watched the car as it disappeared further downtown. Then the four of them just stared down the street.
"Hope your partner isn't making the mistake of his life," Damien finally said to Felman, without turning his head. It wasn't a statement of his own feelings; it was telling Officer Felman what to do. Felman glanced at him uneasily. Without seeing him Damien could tell what the look meant.
I'm praying he isn't.
When Danser returned he entered the building, not casting a second glance at the others waiting inside, jogging up the stairs to his office. They automatically got up and followed him. That was where he had the radio where they could listen to Elise as soon as she started talking. As they went into his office to wait he explained what he'd told her.
"When I dropped her off I said for her to wait about ten minutes before starting to talk," he said, turning on the radio and adjusting the dials. "This is one-way communication only. Nothing sophisticated. We have no need of talking back to her anyway if she's just going to ditch the wire when she gets there."
"What if she gets in trouble?" Damien asked. Danser looked at him, searching for any malice; perhaps he hadn't forgotten about his jaw after all. He turned back to the radio.
"There's nothing we'd be able to do anyway. We don't know where this compound is. She wouldn't tell me." He heard the barely masked disappointment in the policeman's voice, and frowned. "She thinks it in our best interest that we don't go storming this place just to save her if the need arises. She's probably right."
You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.
The singer flopped down into a chair. The other four looked at him briefly, assumed he was harmless for the time being, and then looked back at the radio, watching Danser work on it.
After a moment Danser shrugged and sat down himself. "We'll have to wait a few minutes. It's voice activated."
Everyone fell silent as they waited. There was a clock on the wall; it didn't tick, but Damien was imagining it did, tick...tick...tick..., dreadfully slow, seconds stretching out like hours, or a bomb waiting to go off--
"Hello?" the radio suddenly said, with a slight hiss of static.
The others jumped back, then leaned forward. Damien felt like saying, "Yes?" though he knew it would be to no avail. Elise couldn't hear them.
"Um--I'm hoping this thing works," she said over the radio. There was a tapping sound. "Testing, one, two, three." A nervous laugh.
Danser smiled slightly.
"I'm at the bridge. It'll take me a little while to get there from here, so, I guess I'll sign off, or however you guys say it, till then. Uh, bye." For a moment there was the sound of cars passing, then silence.
Officer Jones sighed. He was leaning against the wall with his arms crossed. "Well, one down, Danser. Hope she doesn't get hit by traffic on the way."
It sounded as if he were joking, and now was a very bad time. However, Damien knew the cop well enough to also know that it was only his own nervousness talking.
"She shouldn't if she's paying adequate attention," Danser said, needlessly, just to fill in the silence.
And there was a long silence now, stretching on about twenty minutes or so; the whole time none of them spoke, not one word. At any other time Damien would have been climbing the walls, he hated long silences so much. Now, however, he sat with his hands locked between his knees, staring at the radio on Danser's desk, willing it to make some kind of noise. He barely dared breathe. He only wanted to hear Elise's voice again, just to make sure she was all right.
Please, God, if You really do exist, which I sometimes doubt...if my uncle hasn't been wasting his time all these years...let her be okay. I barely know her, but I've known her all my life. It doesn't even matter. It shouldn't have to matter. Let her be okay.
Another soft, staticky hiss. Danser adjusted one of the dials. On the other end, somewhere far downtown, Elise cleared her throat nervously.
"I can see the building," she said. Danser seemed to be waiting for her to offer a description of the place, but she didn't. Obviously she knew he would be listening for something like that. "Not too far." Her voice was low, though they could still hear traffic somewhere in the distance. "I'm going towards it."
"Will anyone even be there?" Felman whispered, as if the radio were a two way.
Danser shrugged. "Maybe, maybe not. She said a lot of the place is empty. I don't know how many people actually live there, if any. I'm not even sure they know she's coming."
"No. Not unless there's a leak."
Damien glanced at his uncle anxiously. Father Damien gave a very slight shrug.
Footsteps, which suddenly stopped. "I--there's the door. I'm going to go in now. If Dami's not there, tell him I said it was good to meet him again, even if it was only for a few days or so."
The words sounded so final, all he wanted to do was jump up and speed downtown, find that building, wherever it was, and drag her away from it forever. He knew the truth--there were only two ways to get out of Scorpio: Get kicked out, or get killed out. Those who escaped were never truly free.
And neither, he knew, would Elise be.
A faint scraping sound, and a thump--a door? And two final words, spoken so softly everybody had to lean forward to hear them.
A rather loud rustling noise; a little clatter, footsteps walking away; and then the transmission ended for good.