They raced across the road and slipped into the front entrance. Early risers who wanted exercise before work, or people who wanted to get to work early were leaving for the day. There was no trace of the mist. Not yet in any case.
They took the stairs and paused outside of Apartment C. Sophia raised her hand to knock on the door before Death caught her wrist. “What are you doing?”
“I’m going inside.”
“You can’t knock on a door to take people by surprise. They’re not going to just hand Melody over.”
Her shoulders slumped and she looked so dejected that he walked her to the stairs and around the corner. “Death, I don’t know what I was thinking. I just want her back.”
He peered back down the hallway. No people. No mist, although there was no telling when there would be either. “I’ll go in. They can shoot me.
That’s not to say it won’t hurt, but there’s no one else who can harvest souls. I won’t die.”
She nodded, her expression pained. “I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“It doesn’t matter if I get hurt. It only matters that you live.” He kissed her lips. The tenderness with which she responded took his breath away. He rested her forehead against hers, unable to pull away from her. Not yet.
There was a window at the end of the corridor and an idea formed in his mind. “I’ll climb out of the window and follow the ledge on the outside wall to the apartment and sneak in through a window. I’ll take them by surprise and send Melody out to you. When she comes out, you run back to the limo. It’ll keep you safe.”
She bit her lip. “Are you sure this will work?”
“It has a better chance of working than your plan of knocking on the door. Besides, I can end life with a touch. That’s something you can’t do.”
“Sometimes I wish I could. I’d take away the bad souls. The people who hurt others. Who kill people. Who rape. They don’t deserve to live.”
She was so passionate. He had never cared enough to wish a mortal dead or alive. People did what people did, but he knew there were repercussions. “I am only Death. I don’t judge souls.”
“I don’t suppose it’s right to judge, but still, I pray that the bad ones go to the right place.”
That he could help with. “They do.”
She looked so hopeful. A small smile played on his lips. “They do.”
“Huh. You know, I like to see you smile.”
Something funny happened to his heart—it skipped a little. “And I you, Sophia. I love it when you smile. You need to smile every day.”
Her mouth did the opposite of smiling. It turned down at the edges. “Then save Melody. And come back to me safely.”
She cupped his cheeks and kissed him. Her tongue traced the seam of his mouth before he snapped his arms around her and devoured her in return. Their kiss ended and he tore himself away from her, walking to the window at the end of the hallway.
He hoped that he was right. He hoped he wouldn’t be stopped by bullets and he hoped he could save Melody. If he was so incapacitated, Danu would be the only being strong enough to release him from his body, and if that happened, he wondered if his soul would be judged by the white or the red mist. Did he have a soul to be judged? He wasn’t human. He was something… other.
He’d never given it a thought, but as he balanced on the ledge and shuffled around the corner of the building, he had to wonder color mist which he might be taken by. He peered into the windows before he passed them. Empty living areas and a bedroom with someone still sleeping occupied the first apartment. In the next window he saw what he looked for.
The raven-haired Melody was tied to a bed, hands on either side of her head. Otherwise, the room was empty. She was asleep, but it looked as though she’d been crying. He didn’t blame her. The girl was no more than fifteen and was in a frightening situation.
Death was meant to be impartial. He was meant only to harvest souls when it came time to remove them from the body, but as he crouched and looked at the girl, he thought of Sophia and what she’d gone through to save her. He thought of what Sophia had said. If she had powers, she would end evil. He also knew that if Jim Broton lived, he would continue to find people to torture. He would stop people from living.
He crept past the window and peered through. Several men sat around a table drinking coffee and smoking. A television played in a corner. The living area was a complete mess. Fast-food wrappers littered the table and floor. Half-eaten food was left dried out on a counter. There were stacks of unwashed dishes. He even caught a whiff of cigarette smoke through the tight seam of the window.
Jim Broton smashed a cigarette into the overflowing tray on the table and barked an order to one of the men. He got up and shuffled into the kitchen to pour a cup of coffee for Jim. Lazy bastard couldn’t even get up and get his own coffee.
All of that was bad enough, but what made his blood run cold were the tendrils of black mist appearing on the ground. It puffed into billowing clouds as it rose from the carpet, creeping along the ground to wind around their ankles and up their legs.
The urge to reap built like a living pressure inside him. He tried to step back from the window, but his legs had become as pliable as wooden sticks and they dug into the ledge and locked him where he perched.
He wanted to backtrack. Get to Sophia and get her out of the building, but the mist was getting thicker and darker and the urge was become irrepressible.
Then the tendrils thinned out and slid beneath the closed door of the bedroom Melody was in. He knew the time for denying his urge was over. There was no way he could resist his instincts.
If he didn’t get in there now, the mist would find Melody. His time had run out. He kicked the glass in and jumped inside. Both feet landed on glass and mist and carpet and garbage, but he had his targets. The men stared at him, frozen in shock. But he wasn’t locked by anything except instinct. He strode towards the closest man and bellowed as loud as he could.
“Sophia. Get in and take Melody now! Come! Now!”
He needed her to come in and get Melody out before he could reap their souls. Because if they stayed, he would have no choice but to harvest them too.