Title: Falling Angels
Chapter: 6 of ?
Fandom: The Chronicles of Riddick
Synopsis: In an attempt to find out whether she’s right about the Church of the Rykengoll and the Clement Institute, Audrey Jackson-Badura plays a game of cat-and-mouse with a murderer… and receives a terrible message.
Warnings: Adult situations, harsh language.
The Cipher’s Warning
“Have you given any more thought to what I asked you?”
On the vid screen, Menefee – Carl, but she found that thinking of him as a Carl was much like thinking of Riddick as a Richard – smiled at Audrey. “Oh, I’ve done better than that. I asked him. And he wants to talk to you.”
It had come as a surprise to her when, only two days ago, he had mentioned in passing – in one of their conversations that were growing increasingly personal – that he had been assigned to defend a father who had killed his two small children. And not just a father, but the father who had stammered out a heart-freezing phrase to her while covered in their blood. It had also shocked her just how much she wanted to talk to the man again. “Really?”
“Yeah. But.” The smile had fallen away, replaced with a more serious look that she recognized as Menefee’s all-business mode. “There are a few ground rules.”
It must have shown on her face. “Not actually his. I think he just needs to talk, tell his story. But that’s the thing. I have to defend him, and I have to do it to the best of my ability. So the rules are mine, and they’re for his protection.”
She wasn’t sure if that was better or worse. “Okay?”
“First: you can’t talk to him alone. I have to be present,” he told her, his voice firm. Then it softened. A little. “And just so you don’t think I’m being a dick for no reason, here’s why. As long as I’m in the room with him, attorney-client privilege comes into play. What he says and does can’t be recorded and used as evidence at trial. So maybe you wanted a private conversation with him, but there’s gonna be a third party in the room no matter what, and between me and the surveillance system, I pick me. And so do you if you want to see him.”
“That makes perfect sense.” And, in truth, as much as she wanted to talk to the man, she realized that she didn’t want to be all alone with him.
“Good. Second: if I tell you not to follow a line of questioning, you don’t. There are some things that he could say that even attorney-client privilege won’t protect, and if I know them, I’m obligated to report them. I’ve explained that to him. The standard plea deal in his kind of situation is an insanity defense, and God knows way too many of the people who came from the Coalsack could use it. But last year, a colleague of mine was defending this… schmuck…”
Audrey suddenly wondered if Menefee was Jewish. For Pynchon, outside of refugee territory, he was somewhat exotic, and she couldn’t pinpoint his ethnicity any better than she’d been able to figure out Riddick’s once upon a time. Funny how the rest of the Menefee clan – lawyers and prominent politicians, for the most part – seemed completely white-bread. But Carl Menefee, public defender, was an enigma among them, both in his appearance and in his choices. The family Black Sheep, maybe?
On her screen, he shook his head, grimacing. “…And the jackass blew his whole case when they were talking about favorite books. He mentioned that when he was a teenager, his absolute favorite book, his comfort read, was The Darkest Sword by D. G. Kirk. You ever read that one?”
Audrey shook her head.
“It’s a psychological thriller. But the thing is, this bastard’s wife died from long-term exposure to arsenic contamination in their house’s water pipes, something that was initially ruled as an accident until her family found out that he was the beneficiary of a huge life insurance policy that had only been taken out a year earlier, right before she started displaying early signs of low-grade arsenic poisoning. My buddy thought he was gonna have an easy time proving that the family’s accusations were total bull until he brought up that book.”
“Because that’s how the antihero in the book killed his enemy. Slow, low-grade arsenic poisoning. Kaz suddenly realized that the book was a bloody blueprint for that idiot’s murder of his wife. And it’s not true on every planet, but here on Pynchon, if a defense attorney acquires evidence that could be used to prove first-degree murder and doesn’t turn it over, they can be disbarred.” He grimaced and shook his head. “Which in a case like that, who gives a damn, right? That bastard deserves life with no parole. But I’ve defended a lot of victims of domestic violence who killed their abusers, and thank God none of them have ever accidentally handed me proof that they’d planned their lethal act of self-defense ahead of time.”
Audrey suddenly remembered how one of the first things he’d told Kyra, when he’d been appointed as her counsel, was that he didn’t want her telling anyone, not even or maybe especially not him, about any violent fantasies she’d ever had about her “adoptive family,” as the prosecution insisted on referring to those scum-sucking miners. Damn, so that was why.
“So you don’t want me asking him anything that could… suggest he planned to kill his kids or that he was sane when he decided to do it?” Easy enough. She knew, better than he did, what had driven the murders, and sanity had no part of it.
That dark, terrible night, years ago, Kyra had kicked the knife out of Ziza’s small hand, something that had made the little girl howl with anger and pain and finally wakened her parents from their oblivious slumber. Shouting and recriminations had followed in spite of the knife lying in plain sight on the floor. Audrey had always wondered what might have happened if disarming her hadn’t been so easy… if one of them had been forced to turn the blade back on her. If they hadn’t fled Helion soon after, might there have been another night that had ended in a terrible mirror of the Purdy incident?
It had been the last night that they’d slept alone in separate rooms, no matter how many times Abu or Lajjun scolded them. Even locks on the outsides of their doors hadn’t stopped Kyra from simply going out her window and, via a series of heart-stopping acrobatics that Audrey herself had never dared, coming back in through hers. Those last nights, as New Mecca’s high summer reigned, had been full of whispered conversations, increasingly urgent plans, and moments of intimacy that even now stunned her with their power—
“That’s exactly it, yeah,” Menefee told her, jarring her back out of her memories before they could take her anywhere dangerous. “The last thing is that when we go in, I need you to pose as my legal aid. And not to talk to anybody. If they think I’m bringing in some random lookie-loo, there goes attorney-client privilege all over again. As long as they think you’re part of the defense team, though, we’re good. So just… act like you’re some paralegal I’ve drafted and don’t say more than ‘excuse me’ or ‘thank you’ to anybody when we’re in surveillance zones.”
“Okay.” It looked, she thought with a suppressed shiver, like she was going to have to go with the plan that had occurred to her two days ago. If she could. But would she be able to? “So how would a paralegal dress, and what would she be carrying with her if security was poking around in her stuff?”
She was subtle. Her mother, gods rest her, would have said she was sneaky. A few back-and-forths later, in the midst of having him pick out what she should wear and what kind of materials he would give her to tote with them as his Girl Friday, she’d confirmed that nobody – not even, it seemed, him – would think twice if she brought an insulated cup of coffee or tea with her. And he’d agreed to pick her up in the morning.
And then she was in her tiny kitchenette, brewing a tea that she could barely stand to be in the same room with.
People swore by it. It was medicinal, they claimed, and her textbooks hadn’t disagreed so far. But the smell…
It wasn’t quite the same as the scent that had sometimes come in on the night breezes those final weeks in New Mecca. But it was far, far too close for her liking. The first time she’d caught a whiff of it on Pynchon, in a farmer’s market near her father’s and stepmother’s home, she’d almost had a very public panic attack.
The first time she’d smelled the other scent, the one so much like it but …different… had been the day she and Kyra had skipped school to look for Djamila.
They had tried to make friends with the girls on Helion, the girls in their school, but most of them had just been too sheltered, too sure of how the worlds worked, to feel comfortable with. Their own traumas were still fresh, their experiences with the ’verse so contradictory to how the girls insisted it worked, that it was hard to sit still and listen to them hold forth. Maybe that kind of complacency had been part of why, even when the disappearances were beginning, everyone kept finding plausible explanations. The harder and more real world that Jack – she had still been Jack, then – and Kyra knew was one they refused to acknowledge. But Djamila had been different. She had seemed to understand, and had kept the door open for them even when other girls would have shut them out.
And then she disappeared.
The first day, nobody thought much of it. Spring had been shading into summer and with warmer weather came both a rise in respiratory infections – Audrey had once meant to find out why that was, but she had forgotten until now – and a rise in deliberate truancy. Most of the initial excuses for why she was gone were both banal and plausible.
But the days stretched into a week, and that week into the weekend when the concert that Djamila had planned to attend – and which dozens of girls had desperately wanted to go to but hadn’t managed to buy tickets for – was held. Jack and Kyra had gone, courtesy of tickets gifted to them by Abu and Lajjun when they were still feeling generous, and Djamila’s seat had been empty. If she had known she wouldn’t be able to make it, Jack had insisted during the ride back to town, there were a dozen classmates she could have easily sold her ticket to, not to mention three or four close friends, any of whose eternal devotion she could have ensured, if she’d given it to one of them. Kyra had nodded silently, thoughtfully, beside her.
The “rational” explanations of the other girls rang hollower and hollower, until finally she and Kyra decided to go to Djamila’s house and find out the truth for themselves.
They had been to the girl’s house once, months earlier, for her birthday party. It had been a well-tended garden home in one of the more affluent parts of New Mecca, much like the Al-Walid house but on the other side of the large swathe of public gardens that dominated the city center. That day, though, it looked derelict, abandoned… like a shell that would soon collapse from hidden rot. The silence surrounding it was strange and oppressive. Jack would have forged on, determined to break in and see if it really was abandoned, if Djamila’s family had simply chosen to move and not tell anybody, until Kyra’s hand clamped, iron-hard, on her elbow.
“Do you smell that?” the sister of her heart had asked, an uncharacteristic quaver in her voice.
And then she did smell it… the strange, almost undefinable scent that had filled her nose and lodged in her throat. Musty, rich, hideous, a scent that evoked a primal desire to run. She had controlled it, but had let Kyra pull her away. It was coming from the house, from somewhere within the house. And in spite of the stillness and the silence, Jack had had the terrible feeling that something, perhaps the house itself, was watching them as they backed away. It took all of her will not to break into a panicked run.
Djamila never returned.
That summer, as the days somehow grew darker and they began to plot their own, very different, disappearance, the nights had been full of the scents of a New Mecca summer, a mixture of redolent oasis flowers from the nearby public gardens and cooking spices from the nearby market. Even now, those scents could stir a wistful nostalgia in Audrey’s heart, a burning longing for a dream of sanctuary that had died in its nascence. But sometimes, the wind would shift. And then the breezes would bring another scent, that scent, in through Jack’s open window. And beside her, on the bed, Kyra would shudder and pull in on herself, her hand stealing for the knife that she’d taken to keeping squirreled in her clothes at all times…
It was also a scent that had begun to drift into the Al-Walid house from two other, more terrible directions: the cellar that Lajjun no longer let either girl into… and Ziza’s room.
Its cousin wafted into Audrey’s nose now and she suppressed the urge to retch. Friends of hers swore by this tea, she reminded herself. She’d never been able to stomach the idea of drinking it. She hoped she wouldn’t have to drink any in the morning, and that carrying the cup or, at most, pantomiming a sip from time to time, would be enough.
By morning, she was convinced that the tea’s stench had taken over her whole small living space. She showered, trying to scrub the odor back out of her pores, and then put on the dress she hadn’t worn since she’d last gone job-hunting. Half an hour later, she looked as professional as she possibly could… but she was convinced that she still stank of the damned tea. She hoped she was imagining it. Where the tea was concerned, she needed the element of surprise. Reeking of it when she walked in would definitely spoil that.
Menefee – Carl, and she really needed to think of him that way more – didn’t seem to notice anything unusual… past the fact that she was wearing a dress. She had to admit that he cut quite a figure as well in his Public Defender suit. She had learned enough about telling apart the haves and have-nots, during her time on the run, that she could recognize how much more expensive it was than most of the suits his colleagues wore. It was subtle, but she bet it helped him a lot in the courtroom.
“You look perfect,” he told her, putting a slim leather briefcase into her free hand without a glance at the perfectly ordinary-looking thermal mug she carried in the other. “Exactly right for the part.”
“Thanks! You look…” She considered and discarded a dozen all-too-revealing adjectives. “…incredibly dashing, by the way.”
He smiled. That smile was something that she was a little obsessed with, she realized. It reminded her of the all-too-rare moments during her acquaintance with Riddick when he had cracked a smile or even laughed. She didn’t know how anybody could stand up to him, in or out of court, when he smiled like that.
Carl drove. His vehicle was large, very new, and handled so smoothly that Audrey found herself itching to get behind the wheel. She wished her ambulance had shocks this good, and the fifth-hand jalopy she used when she was staying with her father and stepmother was a rattletrap. If things really were evolving with Carl in the way they seemed to be, she was a little surprised. People in his social class didn’t usually tend to date outside of it. She needed to stay cautious in case she was reading too much into his friendliness… and into how many of their conversations were no longer about the Free Kyra cause but more personal topics.
The New Detroit courthouse was a huge, resplendent edifice and Audrey hated it. She and her family had come here every day to fight for Kyra’s freedom, only to be crushed under the heel of a justice system that seemed archaically convinced that little girls should shoulder the blame for the perversions of the ’verse. Now that she was back in it, she remembered that nobody was going to care about her coffee mug, much less what was inside it. Any other kind of contraband – and that wasn’t really what it was, was it? – would probably have been flagged immediately, but she didn’t even have to pretend to sip at it. Every third person in the building was carrying one much like hers.
The worst part was the interview room. It was the same one where she and Kyra had said their good-byes, after everything fell apart. Carl’s hand rested gently on her shoulder and gave it a small squeeze. He must be remembering, too, she thought, and wondered how much he’d deduced from their final, tearful embraces. Most of the tears had, of course, been hers. Kyra had never been a cryer, or even much of a hugger except with her.
They sat down on one side of the table, the side with its back to a one-way mirror that observers could stand behind. Carl turned and looked at the one of the small, silver globes in each corner of the room.
“I am Carl Menefee, defense attorney for Yeshua Parvinal. This session is protected by attorney-client privilege and cannot be surveilled or observed by anyone associated with the prosecution. Observing this session or attempting to use information gleaned from it, without the knowledge or consent of my client or me, is a class three felony under the Pynchon legal code.”
The little red lights by each of the camera globes winked out. Audrey heard the soft click of a door closing in the observation room behind them. A moment later, two guards led Parvinal in, seating him across from them and securing his handcuffs to the tabletop.
It really was a defense session, too. Carl and Parvinal talked about several things before it was her turn, and she listened with interest. She hadn’t been in the room during many of his sessions with Kyra, and she had often missed these parts of the sessions. She wished she’d seen them, because now she understood why, although Kyra had had no faith in Pynchon’s justice system, Carl Menefee had been one of the only men she’d ever genuinely trusted.
“And now,” Carl finally said, “Audrey, here, wants to talk to you.”
Parvinal, who had spent most of the time with his head tilted down a little, raised his head and looked at her with wan curiosity. “Hello, Audrey. Mr. Menefee tells me that you were the ambulance driver who took my Suri to the hospital.”
Suri Parvinal had had to be sedated twice before they turned her over to the hospital attendants, as Audrey recalled. She’d wondered how sane she would be in that position, because Suri had kept being set off every time she looked down at her nightgown and saw her children’s blood sprayed across it.
And this was the man who had done that.
He didn’t look like a killer. But then, most killers didn’t. She knew that all too well. He looked like the sort of man who might do someone’s taxes once a year and just vanish into the crowd the rest of the time, timid and unremarkable. His eyes were clear, though, and full of deep sadness. He was grieving, she realized.
“I wanted to ask you,” Audrey said carefully, making sure to meet his eyes the whole time, “about the Church of the Rykengoll and the Clement Institute.”
Across from her, Parvinal flinched, just a little, at each name. In the reflection of the window behind him, she could see Carl staring at her in confusion.
“We… weren’t members of that church,” Parvinal said after a brief hesitation, and she could hear distaste in his words. “Suri wanted to join, but I put my foot down. It was too… it wasn’t a place I wanted to go. Our kids—”
His voice broke on the word and he took a deep breath.
“…They were enrolled in one of the Institute’s nursery schools.”
“What did you think of it?” she asked.
“Suri handled all of the childcare decisions. She said it was nice.” Across from her, she watched his face twist with complex grief and fear. Grieving the loss of his children, dead at his hand but maybe lost much sooner than that. Grieving the loss of a wife who maybe hated him now. Grieving the loss of a life in which innocent children went to innocent-seeming schools and nothing rough was slouching closer beneath the façade…
But did he know what he was afraid of? “Did you ever read any of their literature?”
He should his head. So he didn’t know. He hadn’t heard that awful phrase before, not until his own children began chanting it.
Would things have played out differently if he’d known it was some kind of twisted company slogan connecting the Church and the Institute? Would he have excused it and gone back to bed that night? Or…
“Where did the knife come from?” It wasn’t a question she had planned on asking. She felt Carl’s arm tense up where it rested against hers. In a moment, he might cut her off, depending on where the answer seemed to be leading.
Parvinal shrugged. “The kitchen, probably.”
“Don’t you know?” So it had played out the way she suspected.
“I didn’t…” He covered his eyes with one hand and his shaking voice dropped to a whisper. “I didn’t bring it into our bedroom. They did.”
Carl’s breath caught next to her. Apparently he hadn’t known that until now either.
“You told the officer,” he said after a moment as he flipped through his notes, “that you had to kill them because they were possessed. You never said anything about them bringing the murder weapon into your bedroom. Why not?”
“Who would have believed me?” The man across the table aimed the most miserable glare that Audrey had ever seen at his attorney. “They were just… little kids. You don’t know what was happening in the Coalsack even before… even before…”
He stopped and shook his head again.
It was time.
Casually, as if it was nothing, Audrey took the top off of her insulated mug, which had been busily keeping the tea inside piping hot the whole time. Its steam was set free.
The moment the scent reached Parvinal, his response was instantaneous. Pale and wide-eyed, he leapt up out of his seat, or at least as far up as he could with his wrists shackled to the tabletop. His chair clattered against the wall behind him. “What—?!”
“What the Hell?” Carl asked, staring at her.
“It’s okay, Mr. Parvinal,” she said, covering the tea again. “It’s not what it smells like. I promise. But you and I both know what it smells like, don’t we?”
He gaped at her and then closed his mouth with a snap, swallowing. He nodded after a moment.
“Did you start smelling it before or after people were going missing?” she asked, and heard Carl’s breath hitch beside her.
“After,” Parvinal said in a shaky voice, and Carl’s breath hitched again. “After. Sometimes… sometimes I thought it was coming from inside my own house…”
It probably was, Audrey reflected. “When did your kids start having eye infections?”
A look of puzzled awe stole over Parvinal’s face. “Two years ago.”
“Did you have pets back in the Coalsack?” This was the question she hated asking most of all. But the Al-Walid family had owned a beautiful little Pomeranian named Habiba when “Uncle Abu” had first brought her and Kyra home with him, until—
“We did. Yes.” If anything, Parvinal’s voice had become shakier.
“And when did they disappear?”
“What—?” Carl began as he righted Parvinal’s chair for him, and then made himself quiet down.
“About a month before our planet was attacked,” Parvinal whispered, slumping into his chair. “Please, I don’t think I can talk about this anymore.”
“I just have one more question, please,” Audrey said, reaching out and touching his hand. He flinched. “Did Suri have a lot of new friends… other mothers mostly… who replaced her old friend circles from, say, even just three years ago?”
From what she knew of his case, their children had been five and six years old. Suri Parvinal would have already had a close-knit group of friends who were also new mothers… whom she would have inexplicably discarded in favor of a different group, just as Lajjun had.
Parvinal’s eyes met hers again and she could see the puzzle pieces beginning to fall into place for him. Naked horror filled his eyes. “Yes. Yes, she did. Did… did you see all of this in the Coalsack?”
Audrey shook her head. “New Mecca.”
Beside her once more, Carl gasped, and she realized that she’d just given away one of the few mysteries about herself that he’d never been able to solve.
Parvinal’s eyes widened. “It’s there too? And we…”
His cuffs had just enough give that he could cover his face with his hands.
“We… brought… it… here…”
It was the end of the interview. Parvinal began sobbing, and his sobs became so uncontrollable that Carl had to call for a medic and have him transported back to the secure wing of the nearby hospital.
They didn’t talk as they left the building, both of them tight-lipped and pale. It wasn’t until they were back in Carl’s vehicle, sitting in the courthouse parking garage, that he turned to her, his eyes no longer gentle but hard. “What… the fuck… just happened in there?”
“It’s hard to explain,” and Audrey had been up most of the night working out a rational way to explain it, “but… Parvinal’s wife and kids… they got caught up in a kind of cult. The night he killed them… was the night he probably would have died if he hadn’t turned their knife back on them.”
The rest was impossible to explain. Not without sounding completely insane.
Carl stared at her for a long moment before he leaned back in his seat. “Jesus fuck. Not temporary insanity… self-defense. But he’s… probably spent years questioning his sanity, hasn’t he? And blaming himself, which just got even easier to do given that he killed them…”
He turned to look at her again, amazed comprehension on his face. His eyes were gentle again. “That church you mentioned. The men Kyra was convicted of killing were members. And you mentioned New Mecca…”
Audrey winced. She and Kyra had sworn to keep their time on Helion Prime a secret. It hadn’t helped, but she’d still never told anybody. Until now.
“It was happening there, too,” she told him. In for a penny… “Kyra and I were in a foster home together. The mom was in the cult. With her little girl. The dad… I don’t know if he understood what was going on. He might have. But things were getting scary, so we bugged out. And came home.”
“They must’ve been really scary, to leave a world where nobody could arrest Kyra for one like this.” Carl’s eyes were sympathetic. “Were you on Helion the whole time you were—”
He froze, gasping. For a moment, he stared out at nothing, completely still.
“Carl? Are you okay?”
He shook himself and looked around. When his eyes returned to her, they lit up. “Wow, you’re right here. Look. I don’t have long. Maybe a minute or two. I can’t rightly tell yet. So I need you to listen close, okay? Things are about to start moving really fast.”
“This is important. Riddick’s on his way to you. That’s the good news. The bad news is he’s got a shitton of enemies on his tail.”
“Riddick’s coming here? How do you know this?”
“Audie, I need you to focus,” Carl said, his voice and face both earnest and stern and totally unlike him.
Audrey stared at him, dumbstruck. Audie.
“Things are going to get bad when he gets here. So you keep the people you care about close to you, and out of the center of town. Got me? No heroics. You hunker down.”
“Why isn’t Riddick going to Crematoria?” Audrey demanded, confused desperation loosening her tongue entirely too much. “I need him to go there to—”
“Forget Crematoria. It’s history. You need to keep your family safe. Keep your friends safe. And don’t be anywhere near the center of town when night comes. I’m not sure how long it is now but it’s soon, so not tonight, not any night. I mean it, Audie.”
“How do you know about that?”
“I wish I had time to explain, but I don’t think I—” Carl froze again, and then rocked backward in his seat. His eyes had gone wide, panicked. But his expression and mannerisms were his own again, if fearful. “What the fuck just happened? Holy…”
“I don’t know,” she stammered.
“What do you mean you don’t know? Why was I saying those things? They were to you! About you! What the hell is happening?”
“I don’t know!” she repeated. “Everything’s going crazy all of a sudden! I don’t know why!”
She drove him home. He was too shaken to drive. In other circumstances, she would have enjoyed every second behind the wheel, but it was like driving the ambulance the rest of the night after she’d taken Suri Parvinal to the hospital.
Carl Menefee lived in a condo on the twentieth floor of a building that stood on one of the far hills, well away from the city center but with a spectacular view of New Detroit that must have cost a fortune. No other public defender could afford a place like this, but a Menefee could. It was her first time inside. She had wondered if he planned to invite her, and whether it would be appropriate to accept, but there was no question now. His voice had been pleading when he asked her to come up. He was afraid to be alone right now, and could she blame him?
She found herself at one of the floor-to-ceiling windows, taking in the view while he was in his bedroom changing. Below her the world fell away and New Detroit sprawled over the hills into the distance. When night came, she knew, it would look like a spilled jewel box glowing brightly in the darkness. She had the sudden certainty that she would be seeing that view in a few more hours, and that she would be spending the night. She wasn’t sure whether she would be in his bed or on the couch, though.
He called me “Audie.”
Often, in the past, he had called her “Aud” when they talked, and he was actually the only one who had ever done it. It was his name for her, and he was the only one, she realized, that she would allow to use it.
And Audie… that had been Kyra’s name for her, after she’d confided her real identity to her and they’d begun plotting their escape route back to Pynchon. Nobody else had ever used it. She’d been afraid that she’d never hear it used again, but had never expected to hear it like this.
If only she knew what it all meant. What had happened to Carl in the parking garage?
She turned. Carl was standing in the living room entry, still looking hesitant and unsure. He had changed out of his suave suit and was wearing slacks and a light, short-sleeved, woven shirt that she suspected was raw silk. If he hadn’t looked so desperately lost, he would have looked unbelievably desirable. His comm unit was in his hand.
He swallowed. “I…” His voice was strange, husky… tremulous. “I had this idea that I would try to find out more about this cult of yours, on Helion… and I… tried to call a friend there…”
Oh shit, she thought. I never should have said anything. This could bring my whole house of cards down—
“It’s gone,” he said, his expression one of baffled horror.
“What’s gone?” Audrey frowned, not comprehending.
“New Mecca. Helion. The whole system… it’s gone. Like the Coalsack.”
She managed to make it to his expensive leather couch before her legs could give out on her.
“It gets worse,” Carl said, sitting heavily down beside her. “Something… happened on Crematoria, too. The prison… the population… it’s all destroyed. Aside from a handful of bodies, there’s nobody there.”
Had that been her ghost talking through him? The thought startled a laugh out of her. Within seconds, that had dissolved into sobs even stronger than Parvinal’s.
Carl’s warm, strong arms came around her and he held her while she sobbed. Suddenly she didn’t care whether she was sleeping on his couch or in his bed, as long as he didn’t let go.