She reached out to grab my shoulder, but I rolled out of the way, though I was now less than nine inches from the creature.
She grabbed Ian’s shoulder instead, cackling triumphantly. I don’t know if it was stress, having been hanging around grass and trees too long during the high pollen season, or if the old woman had a hand in it, but I felt the first signs of an oncoming asthma attack.
Instinctively, I reached into my shirt pocket for an inhaler; as I did so, I felt the silver charm, just inside my shirt. I took off my necktie, and undid my shirt’s top two buttons. Making a show of shivering as I used the inhaler, counting on a combination of the shadows and the potion to conceal what I was really doing, I carefully unclasped the chain around my neck and reclasped it around the tie.
The shopkeeper at Whitfield’s – who or whatever he was – had said only the dark angel had the power to resist the charm without injury or death.
I might not be able to run from these creatures, my right hand might be too badly burned for optimal use, but I was going down fighting.
The creature was still stiff as I crawled near. Its foot was amazingly narrow, barely wider than the palm of my hand, but it was over a meter long, an easy target, especially with it so stationary. The other creatures were closing in – some within three or four meters. I had to act quickly.
I wrapped the tie around my left wrist and brought the charm down on the foot. There was no mistaking the sound emanating from him as anything but a death scream; smoke began to rise from his torso. I’d barely rolled out of the way when he burst into flames.
The eyes of the other creatures grew huge, saucer-like, emitting cries that were clearly ones of alarm. They bolted away, one and all, to far-off corners of the cemetery, well away from the catacombs.
The old woman let out a scream too. I’d heard it all too often from Drusilla to mistake it for anything other than the unadulterated rage it was.
I rapidly unwrapped my wrist and stuffed my necktie, the charm and chain still around it, back into my inner jacket pocket as the world turned pitch black around me. Even the starlight and the moonlight were gone, as if I’d clasped my hand over my face.
© 2017, 2016, 2015 G. H. McCallum and Duvanian Press, all rights reserved.
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