Black Heart Page 72

“You have?” the third Agent said.

I nodded. “And a whole lot of other stuff that no one should ever have to see.”

A street strewn with bodies after Ramuell had destroyed it. A cave full of imprisoned nephilim, calling for my blood. My own body missing its heart, my soul floating high above my broken shell.

A maze comprised of my darkest fears and deepest secrets. A room full of children tied to machines that took away their memories.

Gabriel falling, his blood pooling in the snow.

A plaza piled high with bodies, and vampires pouring from the dark underground into the sunlight.

More demons and monsters than I could count dying beneath my sword.

Antares. Ramuell. Baraqiel. Amarantha. Therion. Azazel. Titania.

Alerian rising from the ocean. Puck’s eyes flashing with mischief. Lucifer smiling.

Yes, I had seen a whole lot of stuff no one should ever have to see.

“But, Agent Black—” the first Agent said again.

“She’s not an Agent,” Bryson spat. “She is a rogue, and should be treated as such. Stop trying to help her or you’ll be cited for insubordination.”

I looked at the first Agent and shrugged. “Don’t worry about me, kid.”

The Agent’s face hardened. “It’s not right, sir. She’s pregnant.”

“Pregnant with a monster,” Bryson said. “Her child will be a plague upon the world.”

I shook my head. “Seriously, Agent . . .”

“Hill,” the first guy said.

“Hill, don’t get yourself into trouble with the Agency,” I said. “It’s not worth the aggravation.”

Hill tilted his head to one side. “You’re really not worried about the Retrievers.”

“Nope,” I said.

I put my hands in my pockets and turned south. That was the direction they were coming from. I could feel them now that they had entered our dimension. I didn’t know where they were kept normally, but it wasn’t on our plane of existence.

Hill and the other Agent backed away a little from me. Bryson watched me avidly, practically salivating.

I started to whistle.

The Retrievers approached, their pace quickening. I sensed their anticipation. They longed for a soul to take, for a purpose. They had spent so long inside their prison.

“The Retrievers are your prisoners?” I asked Bryson.

“If we did not imprison them, they would run rampant over the world, devouring souls,” Bryson said dismissively. “We allowed them their lives. Now they can fulfill their desires in the service of the Agency.”

“You need to stop hiding behind the Agency like it’s some kind of untouchable institution,” I said. “You guys have made plenty of mistakes. And one of them was trying to chain creatures that should never have been chained.”

“You sound like you feel sorry for the Retrievers, Agent Black,” Hill said.

“I do,” I said softly.

As they got closer and closer I could feel their pain, the centuries they had suffered in the Agency’s prison. Even now, when they were allowed to run free, chains bound them so that they would be forced to return to the place they hated.

Darkness appeared in the distance. The Retrievers would be here at any moment.

When I saw the Retriever at my house, just before I’d leapt into the portal, I’d had a sense of something huge and horrible, something impossible for the human mind to understand. They sped toward us as giant, inky black shadows, contorting in monstrous shapes.

I pulled my hands from my pockets, and held them out in front of me in supplication as the Retrievers drew near. The creatures howled as they approached, their maws open, ready to devour me.

And then they stopped.

The dark magic inside me poured from my hands, reached out to the Retrievers. The creatures seemed confused. They were supposed to attack me. I poured my compassion into the darkness, and settled it over them like a balm. One of them whimpered, and the three creatures seemed to shrink in confusion. Now the Retrievers looked like nothing more than miserable, confused dogs. They looked like oversized mastiffs, blacker than the night before the dawn.

In this form it was easy to see the silver cuffs that each Retriever had around two legs. The cuffs were held there by the magic and power of the Agency. These were the bindings that forced them to return to their prison after they did the Agency’s bidding.

I studied the spell for a moment, and then waved my hand at the Retrievers. The cuffs disappeared into smoke.

The Retrievers approached me cautiously, wound around my ankles, sought affection from my petting hands. The new magic inside me let me know what they were feeling. They had not been free for eons, and I had given them this gift. They would serve me willingly. They would destroy every member of the Agency if I asked them to.

I have to admit that I was tempted, just for a moment, to set them on Bryson. As soon as I had this thought, they turned on the Agency’s captain, growling. Bryson backed up several feet, shock and terror on his face.

“No, no,” I said to my new pets. “Stay.”

Hill stared at me in amazement touched with fear. The third Agent had fled some time after the Retrievers arrived.

“Go back to the Agency,” I said to Bryson. “And tell Sokolov that if he comes after me again, I’ll deliver the same punishment to him that he would have given to me. The Retrievers are mine now.”

“Your heart is as black as Lucifer Morningstar’s,” Bryson said. “One day, someone will bring you to heel.”

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