Gabriel stretched and yawned with great gusto. He didn’t get much sleep last night, but he wasn’t complaining in the slightest. The reasons were totally worth losing a couple of hours of sleep. Here he winced slightly, realizing that he completely forgot to go through the damn file.
“Dammit,” he grumbled and looked at the clock. It was three in the afternoon. He sighed and turned towards the computer. Several minutes later, he was scanning through the names, looking for Evelienne Grey. Another couple of minutes later, he was reading the file he finally found.
After half an hour or so, he frowned and scrolled back up to the first page of the file. He read it again, and frowned deeper. Finally, after fifteen more minutes, he reached for the phone.
“Yes,” he said a couple of minutes later. “Hello... I am calling from the First City Bank... I hope I am not disturbing... Great! I have a couple of questions about a loan Ms. Grey took a year ago. See, I have noticed that there were no payments made since July, and I didn’t see any notes or... Excuse me...?” he frowned. “I’m sorry, what...? Wait, wait...! No, this is not a... Hello...? Hello...!” He stared at the phone in his hand, blinking slowly.
Finally, he dialed the same number again.
“Hello,” he said a minute later.
“You, sick bastard!” the woman on the other end of the line hissed, and Gabriel frowned again. “I don’t know what kind of sick pleasure you are getting out of this, and I don’t care! Call here one more time, and I swear to God...”
“Wait!” Gabriel interrupted her quickly. “Please, wait! I don’t know what I said, and I apologize for whatever it was, but I have no idea what you are talking about! This is not a joke, and I am not trying to get any sick pleasure out of this, I swear! I was looking through the file and I have noticed that there were no payments made on the loan since July! However, there are no notes of any kind on the account, so I thought that maybe it was closed and paid off, and someone failed to file it correctly...!”
There was silence, and then the woman said tentatively:
“You don’t know...?”
“Know what...?” Gabriel said and squeezed the phone with suddenly cold fingers.
“Evie died on July thirteenth,” the woman said, and Gabriel froze in his spot.
“What...?” he muttered.
“She was killed in a car wreck,” the woman said quietly. “I am her sister. I don’t know anything about the loan... I mean, I knew that she had it, but ever since she was...” She choked slightly. “...gone, there was nothing from the bank... No notes, no calls, nothing...”
“Died...” Gabriel said, the ringing in his ears crescendo-ing rapidly.
“Yes,” the woman said in the same quiet voice. “I’m sorry for yelling at you, I thought it was some kind of a sick joke... What was your name again...?”
“I am sorry for your loss...” Gabriel muttered and hung up the phone.
He whipped his own phone out of his pocket and dialed Sam’s number with trembling fingers. He waited until the voice mail kicked in again. He swore loudly and desperately and dialed Desmond’s number.
“Come on...” he whispered. “Des, come on, answer it...! Come on...”
Desmond narrowed his eyes and looked at the silently vibrating phone on his desk. “Rayhe,” he thought. “You should know better than calling me in the middle of the day!” He was in the middle of a semi-important test, therefore, he ignored the phone. Then, three minutes later, the phone vibrated again. Desmond ignored that as well. Finally, after four more silent desperate missed calls, he gave up and picked up the phone. He got up and walked to the window, turning his back towards the class.
“Rayhe,” he said in a low voice. “This is better be important! I am in the middle of the test, and I...”
“Evelienne Grey died in a car wreck on July thirteenth,” Gabriel said quickly, and Desmond froze. “I just spoke to her sister,” Gabriel continued as quickly. “Sam doesn’t answer his phone... Des, you there...?”
“I will meet you at home,” Desmond said and snapped the phone shut.
He turned around and looked at the class.
“I have to leave,” he said in a strained voice, and every single pair of eyes widened at that. “Don’t even think of cheating,” he said heavily. “Because I will know...” He looked across the room with narrowed eyes. “Zabrowski!” he said finally. “You are in charge!”
“Okay,” Richie stood up slowly. “Is everything okay...?”
“No,” Desmond answered shortly and handed Richie the key from his office. “Collect the papers and leave them in my office...” He glanced at his books on his desk.
“I’ll get those,” Richie said quietly.
Desmond nodded and walked out of the classroom without saying anything else.
He got home in the record time of four minutes. Sam’s car was sitting in its usual spot, and the window in his room was still open. Desmond hissed profanities while he was shoving the key into the keyhole. Finally, the door clicked unlocked and he burst inside, without even thinking of taking off his shoes. He ran into Sam’s bedroom and swore out loud when he saw that it was empty, and that the bed hasn’t been made. Samneverleft his bed unmade; no matter how much of a hurry he was in, he would always cover his bed – the kid was a clean freak. Suddenly, there was a muffled ringing sound, and Desmond dove onto the bed, frantically digging through the covers and sheets. Finally, he found the phone and flipped it open.
“Hello!” both of them almost screamed at the same time, and Desmond closed his eyes. “Rayhe, his phone is here and his bed is unmade... Heneverleaves his bed unmade! Where are you...? Okay, see you in a few...”
He turned off the phone and sat on the bed, thinking. Finally, he turned the phone back on and started scanning through the address book. He found the number he was looking for, and pushed the ‘Talk’ button.
“Sam!” The worried voice on the other end of the line made him burst into another string of obscenities. “Who the hell is this?” the voice demanded.
“Goddammit!” Desmond said with feeling and snapped the phone shut.
Five minutes later, there was banging on the front door. Desmond swore once again and went into the front hallway. He swung the door open.
“Where is he?!” they yelled at the same time.
“He’s not with you?!” Another unison.
“Stop that!” A slight pause after another inevitable togetherness.
“Shit,” Desmond closed his eyes. “I knew that he wasn’t with you the minute I heard your voice on the phone... Why did I even bother asking...”
“Where the hell is he?” Blair looked wild.
“Oh, I know exactly where he is, but I am just getting my kicks by acting freaked out!” Desmond exploded. “Do I look like I bloody know where he is?!”
He whirled around and stormed into the kitchen. Blair followed him and slammed the door shut.
“His car is here!” he said loudly.
“No shit!” Desmond spat. “You noticed that too, huh?”
“Goddammit, Desmond...” Blair closed his eyes for a second. “Did he tell you about...”
“I knew about the bloody thing since the end of August,” Desmond opened the door of the fridge, looked inside blindly, and slammed the door shut.
“August?” Blair repeated incredulously.
“Yes, August!” Desmond said irritably. “And no, I had no idea what to do; and no, I didn’t tell anyone else but Rayhe about it; and yes, I know now who is behind it; and no, I have no fucking idea where he is! He’s been gone since yesterday!”
“What?” Blair exploded. “And you only started looking for him now?”
“I figured he was with you,” Desmond kicked the fridge, walked towards the glass door, and jerked it open. “I figured you came back earlier and picked him up in your car...”
“Why... how did you come to such conclusion?” Blair’s eyelid was twitching violently.
“Because the goddamn dog is gone as well!” Desmond lit a cigarette. “I figured that since he is moving in with you and taking the dog, he wanted that damn mutt to get used to the new smells...”
“Wait...” Blair said in a low voice. “You said you knew who was behind it...”
“Sort of,” Desmond grumbled. “I know what disguise the bitch used, but that’s about it... I don’t have a slightest idea who she really is... Goddammit!” He smacked his fist onto the wall of the house in helpless rage.
“Do you know anything else about the sacrifice?” Blair demanded. “Anything...?”
“It has to be performed at 14:17 sharp,” Desmond said in colorless voice. “February fourteenth, 14:17 sharp.”
“Okay, okay...” Blair nodded feverishly. “That means he is still alive and we have more than twenty hours... Shit, shit, shit...” he paced around the kitchen. “Okay, okay...” he muttered finally and whipped out his phone.
“Whom are you calling?” Desmond asked sharply. “Whom are you calling, damn you?” He said louder when Blair ignored him.
“Daniel,” Blair muttered.
“Don’t!” Desmond said in a dangerous voice.
“Look,” Blair didn’t even glance at him this time. “I don’t know what your problem is with me or the Guardians, but don’t you think that now is not a good time to bitch about something like...”
“Goddammit!” Desmond crossed the distance between them in one zooming move, and grabbed the phone out of Blair’s hand.
The Fire Guardian blinked at that, and then his eyes rapidly started turning yellow.
“If you don’t give that back to me right now...” he started saying in a very dangerous voice, and Desmond interrupted him.
“Use your brain, dumbass!” he hissed. “It’s not about my problems right now... I don’t give a shit about my problems right now! I would kiss Salamander’s ass if I knew that would help, okay? You gonna call him and say what exactly? ‘Oh, Danny-boy, remember that slightly important thing about the Winter Equinox this year? Yeah, the sacrifice is gone, but it’s nothing to worry about...’ Something like that?”
Blair’s eyes darkened ever so slightly.
“And then what?” Desmond continued. “You seriously believe that he’ll just sigh and say, ‘Oh, it’s okay. Don’t sweat it’... Goddammit, Blair! If anyone finds out that Sam is missing, do you really believe that saving him would be their main priority? Well, think again!” He shoved the phone back into Blair’s palm, noting the fact that the man’s eyes were back to their original color.
Suddenly, the tattoo on his shoulder started to itch like crazy. He tried reaching for it but his shirt was in a way. He growled and ripped off the shirt, digging his fingernails into the pulsating with the itch skin.
“Oh, God...” he hissed. “Son of a...”
“You have the same tattoo as Sam?” Blair frowned.
“If you will even hint at the fact that you are jealous...” Desmond hissed through his teeth while he was all but ripping off his skin. “I swear to God, I will...”
“Use your brain, dumbass!” Blair snapped at him. “Why the hell would I be jealous of you? It’s not jealousy... You drew this same pattern in the snow that one night... When I saw it on Sam’s shoulder, I remembered immediately, but I couldn’t remember why the hell it looked so familiar to begin with...” He frowned and walked closer. “I still can’t remember...” he muttered. “Goddamn, where have I seen this before? God, stop scratching! You are bleeding...”
“It’s itching...” Desmond growled. “It’s driving me nuts!”
“Where have I seen this before...?” Blair muttered again. “When did you get them?” he asked suddenly. “The tattoos... When did you get them?”
“January fifth,” Desmond said without even pausing to think. “Why?”
“Hold on...” Blair opened his phone and started dialing some number.
“Whom are you calling?” Desmond whirled around.
“Don’t even think of grabbing my phone again,” Blair said warningly. “I am not going to mention Sam, don’t worry... Felix!” he said into the phone, and Desmond gritted his teeth. “Hey, a quick question... Yeah, since you are into history and all... Hey, I am doing this puzzle, and there is a picture of a symbol in there. I know I have seen it before but I cannot remember the name of it...! Drives me crazy... It’s circle-shaped...” Blair gestured for Desmond to turn around. “There are lines inside... Umm, different lines... Kinda snake-shaped, you know...? Oh, and there is a triangle-looking thingy in the center... What...?” He fell silent, and Desmond turned around. “Yeah...” Blair muttered into the phone. “That’s it... Yeah, that’s the right word... Thanks, Felix, bye...”
“What is it?” Desmond asked quietly, knowing that he was not going to like the answer.
“It’s the symbol of Satrienne,” Blair said dully.
“Who or what is that?”
“One of the old gods,” Blair said in the same dull voice. “That’s why it looked familiar to me... When I was at school, we had to write some essay on the history of the ancient world... Mine had to have a symbol and a description in it... I chose Satrienne. It was a long time ago, so I forgot all about it...”
“I had no idea about Satrienne,” Desmond said slowly. “How the hell was I able to draw the perfect symbol?”
“I don’t know,” Blair shook his head. “Maybe you dreamt it...? I mean, sometimes people...”
“Dreamt it...” he muttered, and suddenly felt cold.
“What?” Blair frowned.
Desmond leaned onto the kitchen counter with both hands, his back towards Blair.
“Burn it off,” he commanded.
“What?” the Fire Guardian blinked.
“Burn it off!” Desmond barked. “I don’t know how I was able to do it, but I know that this shit has everything to do with Sam’s disappearance... I also don’t know what else it might do, so burn it off...! Now!” he snapped when Blair just stood there.
“It’ll hurt like hell...” Blair muttered.
“Really?” Desmond narrowed his eyes. “Then I'd better learn how to get off on pain... Burn it...! Goddammit, Blair,” he said in a quieter voice. “Do you really want to risk Sam’s life even more by acting like a squeamish little girl right now...?”
That did it and Blair’s eyes immediately turned bright yellow. He wasn’t pissed this time; he was focused.
“Ready?” he raised his right hand.
“No,” Desmond said through his clenched teeth and grabbed onto that counter for dear life. “Do it!”
Blair didn’t say anything else and pressed his hand onto that damn tattoo. He was wrong; it didn’t hurt like hell – it hurt worse. Desmond screamed out and dropped his head onto his chest, his fingers digging into the counter. He clenched his teeth, trying to lock his screams in his throat. It worked, but only partially. Suddenly, there was an incredulous:
“What the fuck?! Let go of him, you son of a bitch!”
Desmond unlocked his jaw and screamed out:
Gabriel came to a screeching halt, his eyes huge, his expression furious and dumbfounded at the same time.
“Don’t...” Desmond groaned. “I need this... God!!” he dropped his head onto his chest again.
Finally, Blair lowered his hand, and Desmond collapsed onto his knees, panting and shaking all over.
“Des...” Gabriel said very calmly. “Since when are you into this sort of thing?”
“Since...” Desmond gasped for air. “Since... Blair, tell him...” he pressed both of his hands into the floor.
“That tattoo,” Blair said gravely. “It’s the symbol of Satrienne,” he finished, and Gabriel was mute.