"No good guys and no bad guys," I muttered to myself as I leaned against the cold brick wall beside the payphone on which Joseph would soon call. "Heroes and monsters." I tried to think about it. That's what Joseph had wanted to tell me. It seemed dumb. Of course there were bad guys. Of course there were good guys.
It was pretty late at night, though I wasn't sure what time and I didn't especially want to look. Watching the clock just made the waiting seem longer, and I hated waiting. As I sat on the concrete sidewalk leaning against the wall, I was reminded of returning from Aphter with Amy to find the car gone and waiting outside the gas station just like this for Sam to arrive.
Sam. My stomach pulsed in new anxiety when I thought about her. I wondered where she was. She couldn't be far away. I knew she was probably terrified, though I doubted she was in any real danger. I felt sure that neither Joseph nor Hael would hurt her. She couldn't know that, though. Had I only known what I was getting into I'd never have called her that night.
And what was I into, exactly? I had stumbled into... No. I hadn't stumbled into it. I had been lured into the middle of a plot by a Knight, a Dread and some Fates to... to what? To find the Dread Keystone? To expose the deception of the Knights? Did that make us the bad guys? Sure, we were breaking the Raven law, but that couldn't be as important as rescuing the Host. What sort of legalism was that? They held millions of human souls in restless torture as slaves. Hell, not even slaves. They couldn't possibly be any more than wailing shadows by now. Unable to rest. Unable to die. We weren't even sure that the healers would be able to bring them back from such a state.
No bad guys? How was the Demiurge not a bad guy? He had delivered us into slavery in exchange for what? Some bit of trivia to satisfy his curiosity? That's what I had been taught. How were the Dread not bad guys? They had taken all of humanity into torturous slavery. They were monsters.
Monsters and heroes. Why is that a lie? How were the original Knights not heroes? They had risked all, many of them falling into the hands of Hell themselves, to redeem humanity from that pit. Since then we all had worked to prepare for the rescue of the Host. The service and preservation of humanity was our only purpose. In what way was that not heroic?
Joseph, however benevolent he might be, was confused. As I thought it, I came to a strange realization. I wanted to believe him. I wanted him to be right. I wanted him to teach me something true, something I did not know. I wanted him to change me. Nevertheless, he'd only sent one message to me, and I couldn't make any sense of it. I couldn't align my thoughts with a sentiment that ran contrary to my own judgment. Joseph was wrong.
Maybe I could talk to Hael again before he Joseph's body died. Maybe I could ask him what Joseph meant. If the things he told me earlier were true, he should understand what Joseph meant. Maybe, before I killed him, I could understand.
I jumped up quickly, startled but anxious, and grabbed the phone, "Yes?" I said.
"Simon?" It was Joseph's voice.
"There is an empty house near the bakery." He gave me the address. "She is under the house, bound and gagged. Goodbye." He hung up.
I slammed down the phone and ran to the SUV. Luckily the streets were pretty empty as I raced back toward the bakery. As I drove, I pulled the GPS tracker phone from my pocket and looked for a signal. Good! Still strong. I didn't look to see where they were, I just put it back in my pocket and drove on.
When I got to the neighborhood I drove a block or two until I found the street. It ran behind Il Forno. I checked the house numbers. The house would be on the next block. When I saw the address and pulled up to the curb in front, I wasn't sure whether to laugh or curse. There was my Monte Carlo, parked in the driveway. I had been here! Right here! Hell!
I got out of the car and looked at the house. It was, as I'd expected, and old pier and beam Craftsman house. Stopping just long enough to get a flashlight from the trunk of my car, I ran to the back of the house, looking desperately for the opening into the crawlspace under the house.
Then the phone rang. Who the hell? I reached into my pocket, but it wasn't my regular phone. I reached into my other pocket and brought out the GPS phone. It was ringing. The Caller ID said "GPS 2." It was Amy's phone calling. My heart sank. Joseph must have found it on her. If he ditched it, as he surely would, how would I find them? The phone continued to ring. I reached down nervously and pressed the answer button, raising the phone to my cheek.
"Hello?" I said.
"Simon?" It was Amy! What was she doing! She was going to get caught!
"What are you doing?" I said, whispering loudly into the phone. "Hide the phone!"
"It's okay," she said. "We're okay now."
I didn't understand. "What?" I asked. "What do you mean?"
"We're okay," she said. "You don't have to worry. My mom says she knows where we are. We can come meet you."
I still didn't understand. "Where is Joseph?" I asked.
"He's here, but it's okay. He's like Romeo. I think the Fate is gone."
Then it dawned on me. "You sang the song."
"It worked!" she squealed. "We waited until he stopped to call you. Once he heard me singing, he just got this smile on his face and sat very still. Then he slumped over. He's gone."
It was so obvious, but it had never occurred to me. "Wow," I said. "Great thinking, kid."
"Where are you?" she asked, her voice happy and excited.
"Meet us at Il Forno," I said. "Stay in the car and keep the doors locked."
"Us?" she said. "Do you have Sam?"
"I think so. I've got to go. Good job, Amy. You're amazing." I hung up and couldn't help smiling. I was flooded with relief. Amy and Darla were safe. Even more than that, however, I felt the release of a tension that had held my heart like a grip for hours. "I don't have to kill him," I whispered to myself. I sighed and tears welled up in the corners of my eyes as I spotted the opening at last.
"Sam?" I called out, shining the light into the center of the two-foot space between the ground and the beams overhead. She was there, tied to the center pier of the house. Her eyes were wide with joy or fear when the light hit her face. "It's Simon," I said. "Everything's going to be okay, Sam."