Main Character: Seven, Ella Gaines
Summary: Ella sells her soul to a Demon to obtain the one thing she desires above all else.
Chris Larabee stood at the window of his den, absently watching the dead leaves swirling and dancing across his yard. They made a slight ‘ticka-ticka-ticka’ sound as they skittered across the asphalt driveway on their way toward the copse of trees on the far side of the yard where they would eventually pile up in the undergrowth. Chris sighed. It was October 31st. Exactly 7 months to the day that he had found out the truth about Ella Gaines. The night he’d almost lost his team to a madwoman’s schemes and gotten himself shot in the process. At least now he knew the horrible, devastating truth about the deaths of his wife, Sarah, and his son, Adam. In a small way, he had found some kind of closure in the knowledge, both in the fact that he now knew what, and who, was behind their murders and the fact that, even had he been there at the time, he could not have prevented their eventual death at the hands of the insane madwoman. Had he been home that fateful night, his family would not have died . . . that day. But they would have perished, eventually. Ella would have seen to it in her obsessive hatred of anyone she perceived as an obstacle in her deluded path to him.
Chris turned away with a sigh and stepped back to his desk and the warm light that spilled over the contents laying on it. He prepared to slog through the forensic accounting report J.D. had scrupulously put together on all of Ella’s holdings, assets, stock portfolios, accounts and credit card charges. There had to be some clue, some hint, as to where Ella had slithered off to. The team had been able to focus on her case officially for only a month after the incident seven months ago, but eventually the higher ups had deemed that the case had gone cold and Team 7’s talents would be best used on more active cases. Despite protest, they had been pulled. Chris had hauled copies of all of the case files to his house and cardboard file boxes now lay scattered about his den. All of his extra time was devoted to the task and, often, members of his team could be found sitting about in his living room going through them as well. Vin Tanner spent a good portion of his weekends and a couple of evenings every week at the ranch, seemingly as driven as his best friend and boss. His friend’s devotion to finding Ella also played a part on helping the widowed man to find a measure of peace. He would never be able to fully thank all of his team, his friends, for their continued presence in his life but the brother of his heart, the young sharpshooter, was more of a balm to his wounded soul than he could ever have imagined.
The blonde started a Johnny Cash album spinning softly on the media center's turntable, then sat and prepared to once again attempt to follow the money trail to the demented bitch who had tried to destroy his life. He had just popped the CD that J.D. had burned of the report into his laptop when his cell phone chirped with an incoming message. Swiping the screen to activate the display, Chris raised his eyebrow at what he saw.
‘Meet me at 1440 Elm St in Thornton. 10 PM. It’s important. Bring the team. – Travis’
+ + + + + + +
The throaty growl of Vin's Harley reverberated throughout the neat suburban neighborhood that he rode through. Clouds scudded over the full moon, driven by a brisk breeze that rattled bare branches and sent leaves whirling in spiraling whirlwinds under the streetlights. Younger trick-or-treaters were long gone off the streets but a few teenagers still wandered the shadows in costume, holding hands or rolls of toilet paper. Taking a corner, Vin caught sight of the address Chris had texted to the team. The team leader had just arrived, climbing out of his big, black Ram parked across the street from Buck's Pontiac Trans Am. Buck and J.D. were leaning against the car in identical poses, ankles and arms crossed, waiting for their team members to show up.
Vin rolled to a stop behind the Ram as Chris waited for his friend. Removing his helmet and shaking out long, auburn hair, Vin smiled at his boss.
"Travis throwin' us a Halloween party?"
Chris grinned and shrugged as the sharpshooter slung a jeans clad leg off of the bike and joined him.
"No clue. I'm as in the dark as the rest of you."
Vin just smirked back, "At least your dressed for it. All ya need is a pair of fangs." He nodded at Chris' head to toe black attire and the older man snorted at him.
Buck straitened from his slouch against his car, shivered slightly as a particularly sharp breeze sliced through his fleece-lined denim jacket and joined Chris and Vin. He scowled at the team leader.
"Well, this better be good, 'cause I had plans with Mandy tonight that included her wearin' an Elvira costume. You owe me big time, Big Dog."
Chris rolled his eyes and started forward, J.D. falling in behind him as Buck and Vin brought up the rear. The three agents studied the house before them. A large, well kept Victorian, it featured a rounded cupola and a large, wraparound porch. All of the lights on the lower level spilled a warm glow out of the windows. The color of the house couldn't be easily determined in the darkness of the evening and the orangish halogen glare of the streetlights.
J.D. continued Buck's train of thought as he sighed, "I agree. I was supposed to be going to a party with Casey tonight. She's not very happy with me."
Vin raised an eyebrow, "What were you going dressed as?"
The young tech specialist colored slightly and mumbled. Vin leaned in closer, grinning hugely.
"Sorry, didn't catch that?"
"I said Hawkeye and Black Widow, okay?" J.D. snapped. The entire team knew of J.D.'s obsession with the Avenger movies. He could recite facts and phrases from the movie like Josiah could recite bible verses. "And Casey's costume is a-friggin'-amazing. If we hurry up here, I can still make the party."
Buck hooted with amusement as the four men reached the front door. Chris was reaching for the doorbell but paused when the group heard the buttery smooth purr of Ezra's Jag pulling up. As one, they turned and watched as the undercover man exited the beautiful car and approached the group. It was Buck's turn to raise an eyebrow.
"Hell, Ez, you didn't need to dress up for a meeting with Travis."
Ezra was dressed to the nines, turned out in a perfectly tailored Prada suit, complete with matching 14 carat gold tie bar and cuff links. J.D. and Vin whistled. Ezra bestowed a withering look on his friends, eyeing the sharpshooter's scuffed leather biker jacket and J.D.s Boston Bruins hoody with disdain.
"I'll have you know that I was forced to bow out of an invitation only Halloween soirée at the Denver Art Museum for this little impromptu meeting. If we can finish up in a timely manner, I can still join my date for the evening at the after dinner party." He huffed indignantly as he shot his cuffs.
Chris just shook his head in amusement and rang the doorbell. The group only had to wait a few seconds before the door opened and a well dressed man stood before them. Tall, broad shouldered and well built, the man appeared to be in his early 40's. He gestured for them to enter.
"Good evening. I'm Agent Avery Thomas with the FBI. Please, come in. Director Travis is in a meeting with my supervisor at the moment. We'll be joining them later in the study. I thought there were seven of you?" he inquired politely as he led them into a well appointed, comfortable looking living room.
"They're on their way." Chris replied, giving the agent a penetrating look, "The FBI? What's this all about?"
The FBI Agent just smiled and shook his head. "I'm sorry, Agent Larabee. You'll have to wait until my boss and Director Travis can fill you in. I'm just along for the ride, so to speak."
Before Chris could say anything more, a knock sounded from the front door and Thomas moved away quickly to open the door for the last of Team Seven. Josiah and Nathan joined their team mates in the living room. Josiah's low voice rumbled out.
"Know what this is about, Chris?"
Chris just shook his head and shifted to peer down the hall but the door to the study was closed. His eyes flicked back to Vin. The young sharpshooter was frowning slightly and, for reasons Chris could not pinpoint, that made the hair on the back of his neck stand up. He shifted uncomfortably and looked about the room as surreptitiously as he could. Nothing seem out of place. He could see Vin making a similar assessment. Another minute passed in silence, his unease growing.
Chris had just made the decision to step over and have a quiet word with his sharpshooter when, out of the corner of his eye, he saw Agent Thomas maneuver himself behind an oblivious J.D. Swiveling his head back, he could see that Vin was instinctively reaching for the Sig 229 on his belt. Time seemed to slow as Chris scrambled for the HK on his own belt, not knowing what the Hell was going on, but trusting his best friend's instincts with his life. Not knowing what had triggered Chris and Vin's reactions but trusting them just the same, Buck clawed for his own belt-holstered Glock. Ezra bent quickly to retrieve the Taurus pistol he kept for a back up in an ankle holster and the stray thought flitted in less than a microsecond through Chris' brain to wonder why the undercover agent would wear a ankle gun to a museum soirée. Nathan and Josiah were in the process of backing up, obviously unarmed and making room for their armed comrades. J.D.'s eyes widened in confusion and alarm as an arm suddenly snaked around his neck and something hard pressed painfully under his jaw. Time snapped back into place like an overstretched rubber band and 6 men faced off against the tall "agent" with a Beretta shoved up under the chin of the youngest member of their team. A long silence stretched; a frozen tableau for several breathless seconds. A set up. The text message was obviously faked. The guns of Vin, Chris, Ezra and Buck never wavered, their eyes hard and cold.
"Put your weapons down, gentlemen, or make no mistake, I WILL kill your friend without a moments hesitation and take my chances." Avery snapped. "I have no problem dying for my cause."
"Can't do that, Avery," Chris growled, "you should know that. Never give up your weapon."
Avery jabbed the muzzle of the Beretta a little deeper into the soft skin under J.D.'s jaw and the wide-eyed agent winced but did not otherwise move. His eyes held fear but they also held determination, anger and a refusal to plead. Chris tried another tact.
"Why are you doing this? You mentioned a cause. You're not really an FBI agent, are you?"
Avery shook his head. "You'll know my cause soon enough, Larabee. I want you all alive, believe me, but if you don't drop your weapons I promise you that this young man is going to die. It's not what I want but I'll have no other choice. My boss wants all or none. If I can't have all 7 of you, it might as well be none so I'll take Agent Dunne with me, I guarantee it."
Buck, his face a mask of anguish, hissed, "Chris!", yet still his aim held steady on Avery. The team leader hesitated, at war with protocol and his heart. Finally, after several tense moments, he lowered his HK and held it out to the side. Buck and Ezra followed suit. Vin remained poised, steady as a rock and laser focused, his eyes blazing with anger. Without taking his eyes off of Avery, Chris tilted his head minutely.
"Vin." he murmured.
The sharpshooter hesitated for a minute longer, then slowly, grudgingly lowered his Sig. Avery sighed, then motioned with his chin toward the coffee table centered between two artfully arranged sofa's.
"Put your weapons on the table."
The four agents complied. They were then instructed to raise their pant legs. All 6 did so. Ezra's now empty holster was revealed on his ankle, as well as a Hellcat 380 strapped around Vin's right motorcycle boot. This also joined the guns on the table. Avery smirked at the long haired agent who returned his look with one of icy disdain.
"Now I want all of you to remove your coats," he demanded. With the Beretta still firmly shoved up under J.D.'s chin, he expertly frisked the young agent for concealed weapons but didn't find anything. Josiah, Nathan, Chris and Buck quickly shed their jackets. Ezra hesitated.
"Mr. Avery, this is a $1500.00 Prada suit. I simply can't just toss this jacket about, " Ezra opened the lapels, his white shirted chest on full display, "and as you can see, I have nothing to hide here."
Avery shook his head and growled, "Off. You too, Tanner." The two friends glanced at each other, then sighed and slowly stripped their jackets off. The derringer rig on Ezra's arm was instantly revealed, as was the shoulder holster strapped to Vin's chest holding an impressive Desert Eagle. Despite himself, Larabee smirked slightly as his two agents began to divest themselves of even more weapons.
"Aren't you a bit overdressed for a museum soirée, Ez?" he drawled at the untrusting man. Standish raised one elegantly clad shoulder in apparent nonchalance.
"One never knows, does one?" he sniffed, flicking an imaginary piece of lint from the elbow of his dress shirt, then shot the cuffs again.
Avery scowled, "Now everyone turn around."
Vin's glare threatened to barbecue Avery on the spot as he and the others complied. Avery snorted, "Remove the knife and put it with the guns, Tanner." Vin released the catch on the large hunting knife that was attached by a horizontal belt sheath at the small of his back and that, too, joined the rest of the weapons. This time Chris couldn't help himself, despite the seriousness of their situation.
"Jesus, Vin, this was just supposed to be a meeting and you're loaded for bear, " he grinned at his best friend. Vin smirked back and flapped his hand, indicating the room around him and the situation they now found themselves in.
All humor fled their faces a moment later when a dark haired woman dressed in an elegant white pant suit stepped into the room armed with a deadly Mossberg double barreled shotgun aimed at the agents.
"Hello, Chris," she purred.
Larabee's face drained and hate blazed in his eyes.
+ + + + + + +
The basement of the old Victorian was cobweb infested, damp and musty but the large drain pipe running the length of the North facing wall of the large storage room the team currently found themselves in looked new enough . . . and strong enough. Chris' hands were tied quite securely around the pipe above his head. Avery apparently knew his knots well. To his left Buck, Josiah and Nathan shared a similar fate. They were all tall enough that, while their arms did not have slack enough to allow much movement, at least their feet were solidly on the ground. Directly opposite of the four men, they could see through a door into another room that contained an ancient oil furnace, water heater, washer, dryer and soft water heater but, more importantly, the steps leading up and out of their predicament. Chris glanced to his left and studied Vin. Sitting against the Eastern wall surrounded by tomato cages and baling twine, the young man was tied to a iron ring set low in the wall, the purpose for which had been lost in the mists of time. The sharpshooter was yanking at the bonds that secured his hands, a fierce scowl on his handsome face. Directly opposite Vin, on the Western wall, Ezra was also seated, fastened to the twin to Vin's iron ring. The undercover agent was trying to maintain a passive, unconcerned face in spite of the situation but Chris could detect the tension in the shoulders of his agent. A fat spider lazily made it's way over the leg of his perfectly pressed trousers. J.D. sat next to the door on the South wall, amongst various gardening tools, hands secured around an old sandpoint well stump that looked to have been capped long ago when city water was introduced into the house. He made no effort to hide the trepidation on his face. The three youngest on the team were too short to have been included alongside their taller comrades under the drainage pipe and, thus, had been accorded their own "accommodations". Avery stood impassively in the middle of the room, having finished his job of restraining each of the seven under Ella's careful eye . . . and shotgun. The insane woman had glided up the stairs shortly after, leaving her armed watchdog to guard her prey. Chris' eye was drawn again to Vin, still tugging futilely at the hands bound behind his back.
"Vin, stop it," Chris admonished gently, "you're just going to break your wrists if you keep that up."
The younger man glared at his boss, but subsided when Avery glanced at the sharpshooter with a scowl. Before the fake FBI agent could move or say anything, footsteps came from the steps in the outer room. Ella descended the stairs, humming softly to herself, her eyes dancing with a wicked glee. She held Vin's Desert Eagle .44 Magnum in her hand. Slinking up next to Avery, she slid the other hand around his waist and tilted her face up to give him a peck on the cheek. Her paramour grinned in besotted delight and glanced down into the demented woman's eyes with an adoring look on his face. Ella bestowed an indulgent smile upon him before turning to the four men lined up under the pipe. She raked Chris with an appraising look, satisfaction and lust glimmering in her eyes.
"Chris," she breathed out slowly, "you're looking well."
Avery frowned but remained silent.
Larabee curled his lip in disgust. "What do you want, you crazy bitch?" he ground out, every fiber of his body radiating his utter revulsion at the vile creature who now stood before him. Ella's eyes narrowed in rage.
"What I want, Chris, is to take what is rightfully mine." She stalked up to the blonde leader of the seven and caressed his check, then slowly strolled past Buck, Josiah and Nathan before turning and making her way back to Avery. Her captives stayed silent. Placing a possessive hand on Avery's arm she smiled wickedly.
"I've been very busy since the last time I saw you and your . . . mongrel friends," she spat out. "I've discovered a patroness, a mentor, if you will." Ella caressed the Desert Eagle thoughtfully. "My Mistress has offered me all the things that I desire most, for a price, of course, but a mere pittance compared to the prize."
The dark haired woman began to circle the room, her eyes raking across each of the agents as she slowly contemplated each of the seven agents trussed in the basement room. She came to a stop in front of the team's profiler.
"Josiah, you fancy yourself as a theologian, don't you? I'm sure you can tell us how powerful the number seven is in several philosophies," she smiled coyly. A look of alarm passed over the large man's face.
"What have you done, Ella?" he whispered, eyes widening. The demented woman's smile widened into a leering grin, her thin lips nothing more than a crimson slash across her face as she stepped back to Avery's side once more. She giggled, almost hysterically.
"I've made a deal. A bargain, really. My soul for everything that I most desire." Ella clapped her hands in delight. "I will live for hundreds of years, my youth and those of my chosen companion will be restored, I'll be young and beautiful again." She turned to Avery, who gazed at her in rapt devotion, and slid her body up against his.
"My beloved will be the handsome, passionate youth he once was and will be completely, uncompromisingly and forever my devoted lover for centuries to come. My most willing, eager slave." she crowed triumphantly, the light in her eyes demonically bright. Insane. Avery shook his head fondly as he gazed down into her bright eyes.
"I would be your willing slave anyway, you know that my most precious dear, but to have my youth back and to live in bliss with you for the next few centuries . . . that is something I can't wait to have. Let's proceed, dearest. I can't wait a minute longer!" he reached down and kissed her passionately. Ella pulled away with the smallest of frowns. Chris looked on with confusion, then turned his eyes, like the rest of his men, on Josiah. The grey haired profiler was looking at Ella with horror and fear on his face, a visage that none of the other men had ever seen on his face before.
"Josiah?" Chris queried nervously, "what's going on?" Ezra was beginning to struggle against his bonds, alarmed at the feelings that Josiah was provoking in him. J.D.'s eyes were huge in a fearful face. Buck watched in confusion as Nathan suddenly placed his hands around the pipe and began to throw his weight against it, tugging on it frantically. Vin had become absolutely still, his sharp gaze trying to bore a hole through the deranged woman's head. Josiah shuddered.
"She's made a pact with a demon, Chris. One that will require seven sacrifices to activate." he rasped out hoarsely.
Chris gawked at his large friend in disbelief, then swung his head back to Ella. "That's ridiculous! You can't actually believe in crap like that?"
Ella cackled maniacally as she took a sudden step behind Avery and aimed the Desert Eagle to the side of his lower spine. "Believe it, my beloved." she hissed as she pulled the trigger. The blast was deafening in the confines of the chamber as Avery's lower vertebrae disintegrated, blowing bone bits and muscle from his side against the the wall next to Ezra. With a look of shock on his face, Avery dropped like a sack of rocks to the floor, instantly paralyzed from the waist down and bleeding copiously. The injured man looked up in terror at his former lover.
"WHY! Why, Ella? I love you! You're my life!" he wailed, flailing slightly as she quickly bent to retrieve the pistol he had dropped. Ella smiled down at Avery coldly.
"But you are not MY life, you pathetic creature. Because I need seven sacrifices and you will never be my beloved. Only one man has ever deserved that distinction." she glanced up at Chris, then casually stepped over the bleeding man on the floor toward the captive leader of the seven. The ATF team were all staring in horror at the flopping man under her heels. Ella stepped up to the blonde man and reached out one well manicured finger to trace down his cheek.
"Now, my love, you will belong to me forever. We will be as we were when we first met in college. You were so dashing, so handsome, so passionate and you will be all of those things again. All of the cares and toil of the last few years will fall away. I will be that beautiful, young woman you fell in love with and we will walk through this world together for years to come. You will be mine, completely and irrevocably. Your devotion to me will be absolute. All that is required are seven gifts. Seven . . . payments to my Mistress." she glanced around her with a triumphant grin before stepping back. Chris threw himself at her, pulling up short when the rope around his wrists yanked tight.
"You crazy bitch! I'd rather die right here and now rather than let you ever touch me again. You disgust me!" he snarled, wrenching his hands again against the biting ropes. The madwoman simply laughed.
"You'll change your tune soon enough, my dearest."
In his peripheral vision, Chris could see Vin trying to scooch his left foot toward his butt in awkward, tiny movements along the floor. He didn't know what the sniper was trying to do, but he kept his face forward toward Ella. The dark haired woman turned in the younger man's direction, however, and Vin ceased his movements as her gaze swept the room. Stepping to her former paramour, she knelt down and caressed the forehead of the panting man. Avery was gasping in muted sobs, pain and terror evident on his face.
"No, Ella, please." he whispered brokenly trying to fend her hands off. She simply smiled beatifically at him.
"Shush now, Avery dear," she admonished cheerfully, "you know very well that I need seven gifts. This won't take long. I believe I shall gift my Mistress with . . . hmmmm . . . your lungs. Yes, that would be appropriate, I think. Your every breath has been taken for me, hasn't it?" she simpered. The doomed man's eyes widened in panic and he began to thrash his upper body in an effort to get away, despite the agony.
"Nononononono . . ." he gibbered hysterically.
The seven looked on in horror as Ella's fingers began to elongate, needle-like claws erupting from where her fingernails formerly grew. Her thin lips began to stretch into an unholy grin, slowly reaching impossible proportions before spreading across her face in a horizontal split that eventually reached from ear to ear. Razor sharp, pointed teeth grew to several inches across both the upper and bottom of the entire length of her monstrous slit of a mouth. Before the men watching could begin to comprehend what they were seeing, her jaw unhinged, much like a python and dropped several inches down to allow a thick, slimy, blunt ended tongue to emerge. Ella's skin had taken on a mottled, scaly appearance, verging on snakelike and her eyes blazed with a red, unearthly light.
"HOLY MOTHER OF GOD!" Ezra shrieked. J.D. was yanking furiously against his bonds, panting in fear. The four men tied to the water pipe shrunk back as far as they could while Vin froze in place, panting shallowly as he stared straight into the face of Hell. Ella, faced toward the young sharpshooter, eyed him for a moment before letting her gaze drop to the man she was kneeling next to. Avery was screaming hysterically, his fingernails torn and bloody from trying to pull himself along the cement floor. With an easy strength, Ella clamped her foot-long fingers around his arms and pinned him down, her claws impaling his arms cruelly. Leaning over, she let her prehensile tongue loll out of her mouth, slowly unfurling it to a length of three feet. Using the blunt end of her tongue, which looked to be around two inches at its tip, she tugged Avery's shirt open, popping the buttons and laying his chest bare. The sobbing man under her let out an anguished wail as Ella sank her teeth into his chest, hooked razor sharp fangs under his breastbone and heaved upwards. With a series of loud snaps and a mighty crack, Avery's ribcage parted and burst out of his chest in a spatter of spraying blood. The screaming continued.
Silent tears coursed down J.D.s cheeks as Josiah began to mutter prayers. The screaming tapered off as Avery slipped into hypovolemic shock. It seemed impossible but his heart continued to beat and his lungs to lift. It wouldn't be long before the massive blood loss killed him, however. Ella ripped a section of her former lover's shirt off and dipped it into his chest cavity, letting it soak thoroughly, then stood, allowing her features to morph back into her human form. The formerly white Vera Wang pant suit that Ella wore looked more like a gruesome abstract Jackson Pollock painting rather than the once pristine piece of haute couture it had once been. Moving back toward J.D. a few feet, she quickly knelt and, using the bloody shirt as a brush, drew a large circle around herself. At each point on the compass, North, East, South and West, she scribed a rune.
Avery was beginning to gurgle and a death rattle shuddered his lungs. Leaping up, Ella grinned happily at Chris,
who couldn't stop staring at the mad creature. Again in his peripheral vision, he could see Vin trying to pull his foot up toward his hands but he couldn't think about that now. His mind was too caught up in the horror that had the trappings of a nightmare. He wanted to wake up. He wanted this to be just a dream. But even worse than the sight in front of him was the knowledge that he was going to watch his friends all die an equally horrific death as the man currently gasping out his last breaths in front of him, drowning in his own blood.
Ella again knelt next to Avery and Vin again ceased his movements as she faced toward him.
"Must hurry, while he is still living," the mad creature murmured before letting the transformation once more take her over. The second turning was just as horrific as the first to watch. Ella reached into Avery's chest cavity once more and wrapped her long, clawed digits around his trachea, gave it a quick twist that severed it, then scooped the fresh lungs out of his spasming body. Avery's eyes glazed over. Cradling the lungs in her arms, Ella stepped back to the bloody circle and laid the offering in the center before shifting back to her mortal likeness. She stretched out her hand over the lungs and threw her head back.
"Donum dono tibi, domina mea, ut conducerent sibi legavit. Beati estis," she intoned. A far off wailing filled the room, causing Ella to sigh with bliss.
"She has accepted the gift." Turning to Chris and stepping over the body of the deceased man, she clasped her bloody hands across her breasts. "That's step one, my dearest. 6 more steps and it will be complete. Soon we will be together forever!"
The crazed look on her blood drenched face made Chris gag. He fought it down.
"I'll see you in Hell before I ever give anything of myself to you!" he spat, leaning forward against his bonds.
Ella smiled benignly at him. "You won't have a choice, Chris." She glanced at her watch, then glanced at the others around the room. "We have a little time. I need to finish as close to midnight as possible. Shall I tell you how this is going to happen?"
Her face brightened in anticipation as she took a step to the right, putting herself in front of Buck. The ladies man looked down at her with pure loathing in his eyes. Usually an affable, easy going man, Buck's face was hard and cold, his whole demeanor suggesting that nothing would have given him more pleasure than to be able to wrap his arms around her neck and snap it. Ella laughed.
"Oh, Buck. You and I have known each other for a long time, haven't we?" She reached up fondly and stroked his face watching in amusement as he jerked his head back as if slapped. "You do love the ladies, don't you? From you, Buck, I shall take the very essence of you."
Ella allowed herself to transform again and her tongue snaked out, slithering down the front of Buck's pants as the tall man's eyes rounded in horror. Feeling that repulsive, prehensile tongue wrap around his genitals, Buck choked back a cry and jerked himself as far back as the ropes around his wrists would allow. Acidic mucus burned dully in his nether regions. Ella's tongue slipped back out and she gave Buck a wicked grin.
"Yes, I'm going to rip it right off, Buck, and present it to my Mistress. Quite a prodigious gift indeed, don't you think?" She took another step to the right, leaving Buck shaking. Josiah looked down at her solemnly.
"You've damned your soul to Hell, Ella. You realize that, don't you?" he beseeched. She simply patted his cheek.
"Of course I know that, Josiah. But that debt won't come due for a few hundred years yet and," she glanced back at Chris, "it will have all been worth it. Now, dear man, would you like to know what gift you will be bestowing upon my Mistress?" Her hands raised to cup around the big man's head. "You will be giving the gift of this inquisitive, knowledgable, philosophical brain of yours. I will crack your skull and scoop in out before you have a chance to stop breathing." Smiling hugely, she watched as Josiah closed his eyes in sorrow, his shoulders sagging.
Another step to the right brought her in front of Nathan. Plastering herself up against the tall medic, she let her hands slither up his arms until they were circling his wrists, far above her head. He looked down at her with revulsion. She simply grinned impishly.
"Always so serious, Nathan! You, who only wants to heal all the hurts in the world with those talented, healing hands." She watched as his eyes grew wide and he bit his lip. "Yes, my sweet man, my Mistress will be most happy when I snap those hands off with my lovely new teeth and put them into the circle. Such wonderful, strong hands, too. Most happy, indeed!" Cackling to herself, she let her arms fall and turned to the East wall where the sharpshooter sat.
Vin faced down Ella with a baleful glare, which the insane woman returned in kind. "Vin," she hissed, kneeling down to his level. The young man curled a lip up before suddenly launching a gob of spit right into the bitch's face. Ella jerked back, plopping onto her rump on the cold floor before recovering and snapping a long fingered hand around the sharpshooter's neck. Her grip was like a vise.
"Viiiiin. You little bastard," Ella seethed, leaning in closer. "You've been a wrench in my plans for too long. You've had my beloved's ear and spoken against me. You've had too much of his attention and time. You have all been in the way but you, in particular, have been a thorn in my side. I am going to take great pleasure in robbing you of your most valued possession."
Moving her hands up to either side of his skull, Ella held Vin's head still with inhuman strength, then slid her thumbs around to his eyes and pressed them under the edges of his eyelids, forcing them up. Chris could see his young friends teeth clenched so tight that the muscles in his neck stood out in stark relief. Ella gazed at her prey in hatred, leisurely slipping her mucous covered tongue between her lips and questing toward the horrified eyes glaring back at her. A strange, low keening arose from Vin's throat when the tongue scraped ever so slowly across one eyeball and then the other, leaving a slightly acidic slime behind. Ella finally leaned back in satisfaction, leaving the trembling man before her blinking furiously as cleansing tears ran down his face.
"For you, my sweet Vin, I am going to take my time in slowly, ever so slowly digging each eye out of it's socket and you will feel every moment of it. Then I will let you live . . . for a little bit. When the last gift is given and the last oath is spoken, Chris will be mine, heart and soul. He will do anything I desire, willingly and with great enthusiasm and the first thing I will ask of him is to kill you. You won't be able to see him but you will die knowing that it is your best friend killing you. Your eyes will be a gift to my Mistress, but your death will be your gift to me," she spat, chest heaving in fury. She knelt a moment more in front of the shaken man before tossing her head and swiftly rising.
It was J.D.'s turn. Ella moved to the South wall where the agitated tech expert sat. As soon as she moved her attention away, Vin wasted no time in trying to force his foot up to the trembling hands tied at his back. He didn't care anymore if she noticed. Time was quickly running out and he was beginning to panic. Chris suddenly realized what Vin had planned and knew his friend would never be able to pull it off himself. Now, while Ella's back was completely turned away was the time to put a plan into motion. Looking down the row of men beside him, he caught Buck's attention and leaned in to whisper.
"We have to try to pull on the pipe at the same time. Tell the others."
Buck leaned to whisper to Josiah and the profiler in turn leaned to whisper to Nathan. They had all tried their strength against the pipe on and off during their time in the basement, but now they would try a synchronized effort. They all looked to Chris. Ezra caught on swiftly as well and his eyes reflected hope. Chris nodded and the four men strained as one to pull on the pipe. Nothing budged.
Across the room, Ella knelt before J.D. "Shhhhh, my young one," she soothed falsely, patting his head in a motherly fashion. J.D. eyed her with trepidation and fear but he faced her squarely and in silence, lifting his chin a little.
"As for you, my compassionate, young friend," she crooned, "I shall gift my Mistress with your heart. Such a tender, succulent thing." Her hand stole up inside the front of his tee shirt and one sharp nail scored a bloody "X" across his breastbone, giggling as he jumped slightly. The heart in question pounded furiously against the young man's ribs. "You've already seen how it will happen. Just like Avery. It will be agony, I'm afraid, but it can't be helped."
J.D.'s lower lip trembled but he refused to look away from the madwoman's fanatical eyes. "G . . .go to Hell," he whispered. Ella threw back her head and crowed.
"Oh, my silly child! Of course I will! But not for some time yet." She patted his cheek indulgently and rose gracefully. The four men tugging on the pipe paused but Vin continued. He had managed to get his left leg twisted far enough behind him that the tip of his fingers could reach one jean clad calf. Straining fingers scrabbled at the material, trying to pull it up enough to expose the motorcycle boot underneath. Tears still streamed down the sharpshooters face from the mild acid left from Ella's loathsome tongue across his eyeballs. Everything was slightly blurred.
Ezra had been watching Vin's progress straight across the room from him, silently urging him on. If Chris and the others could not break the pipe, it looked like whatever Vin was trying to do was their only hope, slim as that was against the inhumanely strong monster that Ella had become. He braced himself as the maniacal woman knelt before him.
"Ezra Standish," Ella purred, reaching one clawed hand out to rest on his shoulder, "you are looking dapper this evening. Did I interrupt your plans?" she pouted. "Such a pity. I bet it was the museum event, wasn't it? Yes. We move in the same circles, don't we?"
Ezra's green eyes bore into hers with an icy disdain, his lips skinned back from his teeth in disgust. "The same circles? Hardly, you vile, loathsome creature. The only "circle" I belong to is the one currently bound in this room. We may have had mutual acquaintances, Madam, but you are as beneath me as feces on the bottom of my shoe."
Ella's face suffused in rage. One hand placed a resounding, head rocking slap across the undercover man's cheek. "You insufferable ass! You love your words, don't you?" she hissed. "They are your sword and your shield, aren't they? Well you, my enigmatic friend, will be donating that silver tongue of yours to my Mistress."
Ella's wide smile was triumphant as she watched the blood drain from the man in front of her. Glancing at her watch, she raised an eyebrow. "It appears it is time that I proceeded with tonights festivities. I think we should begin with you, Ezra, dear." The long, slimy tongue slipped between her lips again and Ezra's blood ran cold. His eyes darted to Chris, who's own face had drained similarly. The four men threw their weights once again to the task of loosening the pipe.
Ezra began to struggle as two unrelentingly strong hands pinned him to the wall like a butterfly to a cork board and the blunt edge of the monstrous tongue pushed at the lips he had clamped shut. It was of no use, however, has the strong, prehensile appendage forced his lips open. Ella ran up against the obstacle of the conman's clenched teeth, however, and reluctantly released Ezra's arms in order to place her fingers in his jaw joints. The panic stricken man took this opportunity to thrash his body wildly in an attempt to dislodge the would be invader in his mouth.
The four men attached to the pipe had set up a relentless rhythm against the pipe above their heads. Throwing their weight down, they heaved with all of their strength, then released just to do it again, over and over. Their wrists were bloody and raw but the pipe seemed looser and Chris watched the large, solid looking connector near the Northwest corner nearest to him for signs that the fitting was giving way. On the East wall, Vin's fingers had finally grasped the prize he was seeking; the five inch bladed boot knife hidden in a sheath inside his custom designed biker boots. Avery hadn't thought to check there! Easing the knife out, Vin set up a frantic sawing on the ropes around his wrists. He couldn't see Ezra's face, but he could certainly hear what was going on.
Ella's cruel fingers had found the nerve joints in Ezra's jaw and the desperate man's teeth reluctantly parted. Despite his frenzied struggle, her acidic, slimy, blunt ended tongue slipped down his throat. The conman's body bowed out as far as his bound wrists would allow, eye's blown wide in terror as his air was cut off. A guttural scream resonated in his chest as the hideous protuberance forced itself down his trachea. Chris roared in fury as he watched Ezra's feet drum against the floor in spastic desperation.
Vin's frenetic slashing at rope and skin alike finally resulted in the hoped for parting of the the rope around his wrists and he flung himself at J.D., fumbling for his belt buckle as he came to a stop next to the younger man. Releasing the catch on the 2 inch knife hidden in his belt buckle, he pressed the object into J.D.'s hands before slashing the fetters that held his friend to the sand point. Leaving J.D. with the means to cut the other men loose, the sharpshooter turned and, with a wild howl, launched himself at Ella.
Ezra's eyes were just beginning to roll back when Vin's boot knife sunk into Ella's back. With a shriek she jerked her tongue roughly from the undercover agents throat and threw herself upright. Vin's arm whipped around her throat and his knife descended again, this time over her shoulder and into her chest. Undaunted, the demented woman reached back with long claws and latched them into the muscles over Vin's shoulder blades. With demon gifted strength, the monster formerly known as Ella flung the young man over her shoulder to slam into the wall next to the slumping Ezra. He slid slowly down before tipping sideways with a soft sigh, coming to rest against his team mate.
As Vin's eyes slid closed, the four men along the North wall gave one more mighty, desperate heave. Chris felt a bone snap in his wrist but the pain was forgotten in an instant as the coupling fitting in the corner gave way. Another heave and the entire pipe swung loose. As Ella tore the knife from her chest in fury, hurling it away from her in disgust, Chris flung himself to the right, slipping his bound hands free of the pipe. His three team mates quickly followed suit. The team leader scooped up the discarded knife, turning to face the evil in the form of his one time lover. In the background, he could see J.D. cutting the ropes on Josiah, Buck and Nathan.
"It's over, Ella," Chris snarled. "We're loose and you'll never complete the ritual by midnight."
Josiah's large hand descended on J.D.'s shoulder. "Quick, give me the knife, then find all the salt in the house that you can find. Solar salt, table salt, it doesn't matter. Hurry!" the big profiler urged. Taking the two inch belt knife from J.D., Josiah raced to the side of the room that held the gardening tools and snatched up a heavy duty extension cord sitting next to the weed whacker. With quick, efficient movements, he hurriedly sliced through the plug end of the cord and set about stripping the wires 6 inches from the end.
On the other side of the room, Chris and Buck faced off against the demon-spawn in front of them as Nathan edged around her to get to his two downed team mates.
Ella sobbed, "Chris, Chris! I love you! Why can't you see that. I know you feel it, too. You've just become confused. Please. Come with me and I can find a way for us to be together forever. It's not too late!"
Chris and Buck watched in disbelief as the wounds Vin had inflicted began to slowly close up. "Lady," Buck snarled, "you are one crazy bitch. You ain't laying a finger on Chris as long as I still have breath in my body!"
Ella's eyes flashed. "I can fix that, Buck." She raised one razor clawed hand menacingly but found her way blocked by a growling blonde with a slashing knife.
"Stay away from him, Ella. You're not touching him or any of my friends ever again," Chris threatened, a look of hatred on his face so fierce that even the psychopath took a step back. She blinked in confusion.
"But . . . but Chris . . . " she began, but stopped when he took another step forward. Behind her, Josiah had finished wrapping the bare ends of the extension cord wire around the iron ferule at the top of the sharp iron tines on a heavy pitch fork. Grasping the wooden handle in one massive hand, the profiler plugged the extension cord in. The sharp scent of ozone suddenly filled the air.
"Chris . . ." Ella began again as the object of her obsession took another menacing step forward, followed by an equally determined, unarmed Buck. Something changed in the madwoman's eyes then, and they blazed red. "VERY WELL!" she screeched, raising her clawed hands, the slit jawed, fully distended mouth revealed in all of its needle fanged enormity. Before she could lash out, Josiah stepped over the remains of the unfortunate Avery and plunged the electrified pitchfork into her back. The wail that came from Ella's throat was unearthly, reverberating around the room as the smell of burnt flesh rose up. Josiah was relentless; bearing down on the wooden handle, driving the demon-spawn down to the floor. Chris and Buck backed up, watching as the smoke began to curl up from the flailing woman.
This was the moment J.D. raced back into the room, arms full of a bag of solar salt that formerly resided next to the soft water heater and two canisters of table salt from the kitchen. "Jesus Christ," he whispered, brown eyes seemingly too large in his white face. Josiah cried out to his comrades.
"Chris! Buck! Take the table salt and pour it into an unbroken circle around her!"
The two men sprang forward to comply. Grabbing the salt containers from J.D., Chris and Buck quickly did as they were bid. Josiah gave one final shove of the electrified pitchfork into the smoking form of the huddled, quivering woman before stepping back to allow Chris to join the ends of the circle. Josiah snatched up the bag of solar salt, ripped it open and upended it over the now blackened lump. I distant wail rang in the agents ears as the smoldering mass in the middle of the salt circle bubbled and hissed into a stinking, congealed mass.
Silence reigned as 5 stunned men looked at the steaming pile of blackened flesh on the basement floor.
"I think I'm going to be sick." J.D. whispered. His voice seemed to break the spell. Nathan spoke up, "We need to get Vin and Ezra to a hospital," he urged. Chris turned, cradling his broken wrist to his chest.
"How are they?"
Nathan frowned. "Their both unconscious. Vin's bleeding pretty good from the lacerations on his back and I think he hit his head when she slammed him against the wall. Ezra ain't breathing real well. I think his windpipe might be swollen. Pretty sure he's in shock, too. I need something to raise his legs up."
Chris shook his head. "Not here. Get them outside. Everyone out. Now."
Chris maintained pressure against the bleeding wounds on Vin's back with his one good hand as Nathan and Buck lifted the limp sharpshooter. Josiah and J.D. took Ezra between them and the entire group moved up the stairs and out of the house. They set the injured men down on the lawn. Chris turned to his oldest friend.
"Burn it," was all he said in a deadly, cold tone. Buck nodded grimly and moved back toward the house as J.D. dialed 911 for an ambulance.
+ + + + + + +
Vin groaned. His head felt like someone was trying to drill from the inside of his skull. His back felt shredded but the pain was distant. Cautiously cracking his eyes open, he was pleased to note that the lights in the room were dimmed. Turning his head, he found his best friend staring at him intently. His features were blurred slightly and that alarmed the sharpshooter.
"Chris?" he breathed out, shocked at how weak his voice sounded. The older man smiled and reached out, placing his un-casted hand on his friends shoulder.
"Welcome back, pard. You had us worried there for a bit. You've been out for almost 2 days," Chris stated. Vin blinked, taking in the hospital room and the IV's going into his arm. He sorted through his muddled thoughts for amoment before sucking in a sharp breath.
"Ella?" he croaked.
Chris nodded grimly. "Dead, and if you hadn't stopped her, Ezra would be, too. We wouldn't have reached him fast enough." At the younger man's uplifted, inquiring eyebrow, Chris succinctly explained the events that happened after Vin had lost consciousness. The injured man stared at Chris in wide eyed wonder.
"That's . . . I don't even have words. How did Josiah know what to do?" Vin questioned.
"He's been around, Vin. He's picked up a lot of interesting knowledge."
Vin snorted. "Or he's been watching too much Supernatural," he smirked, then sobered again. "How's Ezra doin'?"
Chris hesitated. "He's . . . he's struggling. His throat was pretty swollen when we got him here to the hospital so they pumped him full of Prednisone and put him on oxygen mask at full bore. The swelling's going down. They treated him for shock, too. What he went through . . ." the team leader paused, "he's having nightmares. Wakes up screaming."
Vin grimaced. "We can't 'zactly go to the department shrink for this, can we?"
Chris shook his head. "No, no we can't. Josiah's doing what he can in a professional capacity. We'll just have to be there for Ezra. We'll get him through this."
"We'll get all of us through this together, Chris," Vin stated emphatically, reaching up and squeezing his best friends hand. Chris nodded, heaving in a breath before continuing.
"The official report on how this went down had to be . . . tamed down a bit. We tried to keep it as close to the truth as we could but . . . " Chris trailed off, then shook his head. "J.D.'s been twitchy as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Hardly leaves Buck's side and keeps jumpin' at shadows. I finally sent them and Nathan home to get some sleep. Josiah's with Ez. Hasn't hardly left his side since we brought you guys in."
Vin nodded, then swallowed nervously. "Chris, about my eyes . . ." The older man noticed the barely there tremor in his friend's voice.
"It'll be fine, Vin. They're irritated but it'll clear up. The docs flushed them when we brought you in and we had an Ophthalmologist look at them. It's all good. Your back, though . . . she tore it up pretty good." Chris swallowed convulsively, battling down the rage. "It's gonna scar pretty bad. The staff is pumping you full of a broad spectrum antibiotic to prevent infection and they did a good job in sewing you up but she's left her mark, Pard. I'm . . . I'm sorry."
Vin looked at the bowed head in front of him. "Chris. Chris, look at me." When the blonde head raised and their eyes met again, Vin continued. "Chris, I don't give a damn about how my back looks as long as Ez is going to be all right and I can still do my job. That's all that matters to me, okay?"
Chris sighed, but he nodded. "Okay."
Vin's eyes were beginning to droop, worn out from their conversation, but he struggled to stay awake for just a little bit longer.
"Is it over then?" he whispered.
Chris brushed a stray strand of hair off of the young man's face. "Josiah seems to think so," he murmured, looking at the sharpshooter fondly. "You need to get some more sleep. You've got yourself a pretty good concussion. Physical therapy will be here in a couple of days to get you started on some exercises for your back and, trust me, you're going to want to have as much of your strength back for that as possible."
Vin grimaced. "Ah Hell."
Chris bent forward again, looking his friend in the eye. "And Vin? Next time I complain about you carrying around an entire arsenal on your person? Kick my ass,okay?" he grinned.
Vin scoffed softly. "Damn straight I will, ya idjit." His eyes slipped shut and his breathing evened out.
Chris settled back to keep watch over his friend, praying that the nightmare that was Ella Gaines was finally gone from his life. He imagined he could hear an angry wail, far off in the distance.
Feedback to: Fritti13@aol.com
Author's note: All of the weapons that Vin carries are real. You can Google various brands of small of the back, beltbuckle and boot knives.