Cerberus checked into the first motel he came to, barely within Prospect City limits. Though he could easily have afforded the best motel in Prospect, it amused him to play the part of Joe traveler, looking for the cheapest deal and happy when he found it. He paid for a three night stay, though he intended on completing his business before that.
After laying his one suitcase on the neatly made bed, he headed across the street and into a convenience store, where he purchased the latest edition of the Prospect Sun Times. Back in his room, and as he had suspected after a close examination of it, the newspaper turned out to be a combination of a small amount of national news, a bigger portion of local goings on, and just plain gossip-mostly from the wanna-be reporters in the outlying communities.
Thirty minutes later he laid the paper aside, having learned what he expected to learn from it: next to nothing. However, he now knew for a certainty that there was next to nothing to learn from it.
One item in the local news that had caught his attention was a death at a psychiatric facility in the state. Opinions on the cause of death all boiled down to one broad consensus: despite all our expertise, we don’t know. A mystery that they would never solve, he reflected-just as he had silently promised them. In a way, the psychiatric facility death was merely a warm-up for what he would do here in Prospect, he knew. And having already made his plans before entering Prospect, the only two questions remaining were when, and in what order.
The ‘when’ he settled in his mind almost immediately, seeing no reason why he could not accomplish the two terminations before sunrise tomorrow.
The order was largely a matter of economy-the girl was closer to his motel than was the boy. Taking care of her before taking care of the boy meant no doubling back. All he needed was 10 or 15 minutes of uninterrupted time in close proximity to each residence where they lived. After that, it was back to home and back to business.
Satisfied with the situation thus far, he packed his suitcase, then laid down on the bed. Mentally setting his infallible internal clock for midnight, he was fast asleep within a few minutes.
After school, Justin and Samantha decided to go to the park where they had spent some time while falling in love. Smith’s Variety could wait for another day. As they came within sight of their favorite picnic table, they noticed that it was already occupied. Closer still, and they saw that the squatters were Bart and his girlfriend Darla, holding hands across the table from each other. Their eyes seemed locked together, totally unaware of anything else going on around them. Bart’s face glowed with a look of ultimate satisfaction as Darla stared adoringly at him.
Justin and Samantha stopped, looking at each other knowingly.
“Aw-w-w,” said Samantha, impathing him. “Isn’t that sweet? I think they’re falling in love.”
“No bets against that one, Lady Fair,” Justin said, impathing her back. “I remember what it was like-new, wonderful.”
“And now?” asked Samantha, teasingly.
“Now,” replied Justin, picking up her cue, “I would describe it as still feeling new, but even more wonderful. Shall we leave them alone and find someplace else?”
“Naw,” said Samantha, wrapping her arms around one of his and guiding him to the table, “Lets at least say hi.”
“Man, Bart,” said Justin, putting a note of discouragement in his voice and startling them both, “I can’t believe you’re doing this. All my friends are falling like flies-first Chris and now you.”
“Just following your example,” replied Bart, grinning widely.
Laughing, Samantha said, “I think he just owned you on that one, Mr. Billings.”
“Okay,” replied Justin, trying to keep a straight face. “I am willing to concede that he has a point, minuscule though it may be. Anyway, you two may carry on.
Promptly at midnight, Cerberus awoke, refreshed. Earlier he had decided that after he was finished with the boy and the girl, he would make a straight-through drive for home, stopping as little as possible along the way. Come sunrise, he would be several hundred miles away. How simple this was becoming, he reflected. The others with their elaborate planning and detailed scheming…but then, they didn’t possess his unique abilities. Ten or fifteen minutes outside the girl’s house; the same at the boy’s house; ten minutes travel between; thirty minutes from start to finish, and hours away from the city of Prospect when the discoveries were made. Due to their uniqueness, it was a given that law enforcement authorities would make a connection between the psychiatric facility death and the deaths of the boy and girl. The name Cerberus had given the facility staff would be mentioned as a relative who had visited earlier on the day of the death, but it would go no further than that. Even if someone on the staff could help a police artist come up with a good likeness of his face, nothing would ever come of it. One of the advantages to having money is that the person with the money can make records disappear. So, no, Cerberus was not concerned about having been seen by the psychiatric facility staff.
Grabbing the suitcase he had packed earlier, he it placed on the back seat of his car, then started the engine and left as quietly as possible. Ten minutes later, he was sitting outside the girl’s house. Closing his eyes and going into the same sleep-like trance as he had at the psychiatric facility, he mentally probed the interior of the house. What he was feeling for was water-for it was water he had the ability to control. Depending on temperature and humidity, he was able to distinguish shapes-and motion if a shape that contained moisture was moving.
After summarily ignoring the water heater, whose shape was obvious, and a small four-legged object that was probably a family pet, he detected three human-like forms, all relatively motionless and in horizontal positions. Two of the forms were lying side by side, making the third one that of the girl, Samantha. With Clark’s friend, he had started with the feet, working his way slowly up the legs, freezing the moisture in them as he progressed. With the girl, he decided to attack the entire body from the neck down, leaving the head alone. If she awoke before she died, then so much the better. She would not be able to communicate loud enough to do her any good, and her conscious awareness of the increasing pain would make her death that much more satisfying.
Relaxing even deeper into his trance, he began the process.
Deep in sleep, Justin frowned. He must be dreaming, he thought. Impaths from his Lady Fair were always accompanied by warm feelings of love, whereas this impath had arrived jarring and cold-literally cold.
“Justin! Help me!”
Coming suddenly awake, he realized that he had not been dreaming. Samantha was in trouble.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, sensing panic in her voice.
“My entire body is turning cold. I don’t know what’s happening.”
The coldness she was experiencing came through her impath and into Justin’s body with a chill that caused him momentary shivers. As was usual for him when faced with a dangerous situation, his thought processes kicked into hyper mode. He recalled the newspaper article Lloyd had read to him about Daekkin being found frozen as solid as an ice sculpture in his bed at the psychiatric facility. At the time, Justin had wondered how Daekkin had come to be in that condition. Now he knew. The only common connection between Daekkin and Samantha was Cerberus.
Scrambling out of his bed and not bothering to get dressed, he sent his Vision into Samantha’s room, then projected himself there.
“Lady Fair,” he impathed to her as he approached her bed. “I’m in your room right now. We’ve got to get you out of here.” Because of the darkness of the room, he left his Vision active, rather than relying on his natural eyes. “I’m taking you to the clearing,” he said, carefully putting his arms under her legs and shoulders and picking her up. Even through her nightgown he could tell that her entire body was chilled. Sending his Vision into the clearing, he quickly followed it there. Gently, he stood her on her feet and helped her to a sitting position on the conversation log. She was hugging herself, her body trembling. Kneeling down in front of her, he spoke, out loud this time. “Samantha. Look at me. I’m going to get some blankets we can wrap around you. I will be back in less than two minutes.”
Sobbing and shivering, she acknowledge that she had heard him.
Justin projected into his bedroom, gathered up a couple of blankets and a pillow, plus his clothing, then projected back to the clearing. Spreading one of the blankets on the ground, he helped her to lay down, placing the pillow under her head. Taking the other blanket, he laid down beside her, pulling the blanket over both of them and wrapping her up in his arms. The combination of the blankets and the heat from his own body was enough that she stopped shivering after only a few minutes.
“What happened?” she asked.
“Cerberus,” replied Justin angrily. “Apparently, he has some freakish ability to freeze water. Remember me telling you about Daekkin’s death and how they found him frozen solid in bed?”
“You think it was Cerberus who did it?” asked Samantha.
“Had to be,” said Justin. “He’s the only connection between you and Daekkin. How are you feeling now?”
“Much better,” she told him. “I’m toasty warm now. Thank you.” Hugging him tightly for a moment, she gave him a condensed version of the hospital kiss, then scrambled from underneath the blanket. Yanking it off of him, she folded and placed it over the conversation log as padding to sit on. Justin, who was wearing only a tee shirt and boxer shorts, casually stood up and put on the clothes he had brought with him from his room.
“Woo-hoo!” said Samantha, clapping her hands and whistling as he dressed. Then, more seriously, “What are we going to do?”
Justin told her.
Just a few minutes into the termination of the Samantha girl, Cerberus was startled at the sudden appearance of another form in the room. Strange, he thought, that the form had appeared there so suddenly. As he was puzzling over the occurrence, both forms vanished as rapidly as a first one had appeared. Mentally, he reexamined the interior of the house, but to no avail. The girl and the other form were gone. He would wait, he decided, for 30 minutes. If the girl did not reappear, then he would drive to the boy’s house-who was his primary target anyway. Too bad that he hadn’t gotten a shorter distance away from the girl before beginning his freezing process. She would have been dead by the time the other form appeared. Proximity had a huge effect on the speed of his freezing abilities. For the boy, he would leave the car and position himself outside the bedroom window-something he should have done with the girl, he realized belatedly.
At the end of his patient wait, he was getting ready to leave for the boy’s house when someone knocked on the passenger side window of his car. Startled, he looked over. He had studied her picture enough that he knew her immediately-even with the LED light causing distorted shadows across her face. Seconds later, the door next to him was flung open and he felt himself being dragged out by the neck. Before he could protest the manhandling, strong arms shoved him roughly backwards against the side of his car just before something slammed him hard in the stomach, paralyzing his diaphragm. “So you like to freeze people, huh?” asked the sarcastic voice belonging to the strong arms. “Well, freeze this, then!” Another something slammed him hard to the side of his head.
As he sank rapidly into unconsciousness, he knew that someone had just called a time-out on his carefully made plans.
Ironic, thought Justin as he wrapped Cerberus up in a bear hug. The man who had literally tried to freeze Samantha to death, was himself now, out cold.
“I’ll see you in the clearing after you’ve changed,” said Justin to Samantha just before projecting himself there, taking Cerberus with him.
Five minutes later, Samantha appeared in the clearing. Justin had laid Cerberus on the ground about ten feet in front of the conversation log, and was sitting on the blanket Samantha had placed there earlier. She sat down beside him.
“Now what?” she asked, looking at the still unconscious form of Cerberus.
“Give me a minute or two on this one,” Justin said. “Do you have your little LED light on you?”
“It’s in my purse.”
After a few minutes of silence, Justin sighed. “I have an idea,” he said. “It’s probably not a very good one, but it’s the only one I could come up with. Have you tried imprinting this guy’s aura?”
“Yes,” Samantha told him, “but it was too repulsive, and too obscured to get an imprint anyway.”
“I think I know how to get one,” Justin informed her. “You know what I do sometimes when you’re having trouble falling asleep?”
Samantha got it immediately. “That’s brilliant,” she said. “That ought to raise enough of a ruckus with his aura to make something happen. On the count of three?”
Justin began counting. At three, he and Samantha both began streaming into Cerberus’s aura the pure love Justin had felt when he was in heaven briefly after being shot. That it raised a ruckus was a gross understatement. No sooner had the two streams made contact with the aura than the blackness which had covered it for so many years erupted out and away from it, leaving it completely clean and exposed. With their Vision still activated, Justin and Samantha stopped the streams and watched in awe as the blackness shot skyward, separating instantly into hundreds of individual entities, all escaping the angelic peacefulness of the clearing like snakes slithering from a prairie grass fire. Once they were above the clearing, the entities ceased their flight and began circling, as if seeking a way back in. Justin knew that as long as Cerberus remained in the clearing, the entities would continue their circling.
What Samantha and he had now, he realized, was a standoff.
A groan from Cerberus brought Samantha and Justin’s attention back to him. Though it was night, Justin and Samantha’s Vision abilities allowed them to see Cerberus and the clearing quite well.
“Get your LED light ready, Lady Fair, and shine in on me as soon as he opens his eyes.”
Leland had told him that after an eviction, Cerberus would not remember him or Samantha, nor would he remember anything that had occurred during the time the evil spirits had been controlling his body.
Another groan, louder this time, and Cerberus opened his eyes.
Samantha shined her light on Justin, causing Cerberus to jerk his head in their direction.
“Where am I?” he asked, fearfully, feeling a sense of emptiness that he could not remember experiencing before.
“You’re in a forest clearing,” Justin answered, calmly. “It’s the middle of the night. Do you know who I am?” While he had the chance, Justin imprinted Cerberus’s aura, then left it open so he would know when the man was lying.
Cerberus studied him intently for a few seconds. “I have never seen you before, that I know of,” he replied. “Why am I here?”
Justin impathed Samantha. “He’s telling the truth,” he said.
“We are trying to protect you,” Samantha answered. “What is your name?”
Confused, the man thought for several seconds before replying. “Edward,” he said. “I…I think it’s Edward.”
“Keep talking to him, Lady Fair. I’m going to contact Leland. We need help here, and the sooner the better.”
“My thoughts exactly, Knight of mine.”
Edith McCallen got quietly out of bed and headed into the bathroom, a regular middle of the night routine for her lately. “Stupid bladder,” she mumbled to herself. “Can’t even make it through an entire night anymore.” She decided that she would have to see a doctor soon. As she was passing Samantha’s room, she quietly opened the door a little and looked in, as she always did when her bladder forced her to get up at night. She quietly closed the door and was walking back to her bedroom when she realized that Samantha’s bed had been empty. Walking quickly back to Samantha’s room, she threw open the door and turned on the light.
The bed was empty.
She bent down and looked under the bed.
Puzzled, she opened the closet door.
Samantha was not in the closet.
Back in her own room, she shook her husband awake. “Samantha’s gone,” she told him. “I’ve looked everywhere in her room, and she’s not there.”
Turning over on his back, Ian wiped his face with his hands several times, rousting himself out of a pleasant sleep. As he was walking to Samantha’s room, his wife busied his ears with the possibilities of what could have happened to her.
“I’ve narrowed it down to two possibilities,” she told him confidently. “Either she’s been kidnapped, or she and Justin have eloped.” Pondering for a second, she said, “Eloped. Oh, wouldn’t that be romantic? See what I mean? She’s not in her bed, and I already looked in the closet so you don’t have to check there.”
Not speaking, Ian went into the dining room and turned on the light. There on the table was a sheet of paper with several lines of handwriting on it. Picking it up, he read it silently to himself. “Dad,” it said. “I’m with Justin. He needed my help with something. I’ll explain in the morning when we’re finished. Samantha.” Handing the note to his wife, Ian padded back to the bedroom, laid down, and was asleep once again almost immediately. Almost immediately, but not before hearing his wife’s exclamation of disappointment. “You mean they didn’t elope after all? What a letdown.” Placing the note back on the table, she headed back for the bedroom. Mentally looking for someone or something to blame for her disappointment, she verbalized the first thing that came to her mind.
“Stupid bladder,” she said.
“What’s up, buddy?” asked Leland through the impath connection.
“Cerberus,” replied Justin. “Samantha and I have a problem.”
“I know. Beatrice told me he showed up in Prospect. You’ll have to stay away from him until my team and I can get down there. Shouldn’t be more than another earth day or two.”
“Bit late for that kind of advise,” Justin informed him. “He’s in the clearing with us.”
“Has he harmed either of you?” Leland asked, concerned.
“Right now, he’s really not in a position to harm anyone.”
The note of dry humor in Justin’s impath added to Leland’s sudden confusion. “Wait a minute. I thought he had you. Am I missing something here?”
“Yes,” Justin informed him. “It’s the other way around. We have him. We figured out how to force the evil spirits in him to pack their bags and leave. Right now, they’re hovering above the clearing trying to find a way back in, and we’re here in the clearing with a man who’s having trouble remembering his own name. We’re not sure what to do next, so we would appreciate a little help.”
“How in heaven’s name did you manage the first stage of an eviction?” asked Leland.
“Is that what we did?” asked Justin back. “Well, if that was stage one, I assume there’s a stage two. I guess that’s what we need help with. We don’t dare leave him alone in the clearing, and Samantha and I can’t spend a long period of time here. If we remove him from the protection of the clearing right now, I’m afraid the spirits will jump back into him and set up shop again-so, we have a standoff.
“How long can you stay there?” inquired Leland.
“Fortunately, we’re heading into a weekend, but I’m not very keen on babysitting this guy any longer than I have to, and I don’t suspect Samantha is either.”
“Tell you what,” said Leland. “If you can stay there until a few hours after sunrise, my team and I will come down and finish the eviction.”
“Thank you,” Justin replied, before breaking the impath connection.
When Justin didn’t show for breakfast at the usual time, Connie went to his room. After knocking and receiving no answer, she opened the door and looked in. Not only was Justin not in bed, but his pillow and blankets were missing also. She returned to the dining room just as Lloyd was sitting down to the table.
“Justin’s not in his room,” she told Lloyd. “Some of his bedding is gone, too.”
“Really?” said Lloyd, looking at his watch. “Well, if he hasn’t shown up by the time I’m finished eating, I’ll start the milking.”
“I bet this has something to do with that Cerberus character Justin was telling us about,” said Connie. “I hope he and Samantha are alright.”
“Justin’s pretty resourceful,” commented Lloyd after some thought. “Samantha also. I have a feeling that whatever they’re doing, they’ll come out of it okay.”
“I hope you’re right.”
Ten minutes later as Lloyd was finishing up his breakfast, a knock sounded at the door. Connie and Lloyd looked each other. As Connie arose from her chair, they heard the door opening.
“Hello?” a familiar voice called out.
Relieved, Connie answered. “We’re in the dining room, Samantha. Come on in.”
“Justin asked me to come and tell you what’s going on,” said Samantha as she reached the dining room table.
“First things first,” said Connie. “Sit down and I’ll get you something to eat. You look frazzled.”
As she was eating, she told Connie and Lloyd what she and Justin had been doing for most of the night. “We’re okay,” she finished. “In another few hours, according to Leland, it will all be over.” Looking at Lloyd, she said, “Justin was wondering if you would take over the milking for him this morning.”
“Planned on doing just that,” Lloyd told her, then asked, “Could you, you know…do that mental thing and ask him if he would call the cows in for me? Save me some walking.”
Samantha did so, smiling at Justin’s answer. “He says he will,” she informed Lloyd.
“And?” Lloyd asked her.
“I asked him for a favor. He usually has some smart remark to make after he agrees.”
“He says he’s only doing it because of your age.”
“Okay. That’s more like it,” said Lloyd with a satisfied smile.
Samantha left the house, carrying Justin’s breakfast in a picnic basket. Closing her eyes, she sent her Vision to the clearing, then projected herself there. As soon as she arrived, she sensed that something was wrong. The usual Angelic peacefulness of clearing was gone, replaced by an oppressive heaviness that immediately wrapped her body in its listless fog and began dulling her senses. Realizing the potential danger she was in, Samantha slammed her Vision onto the trail just outside the clearing and projected herself out. The almost instant recovery of her senses back to normal was like an invisible and refreshing breeze blowing through her entire body. Taking a few moments to gather her wits about her, she pulled up Justin’s aura and impathed him.
“Justin?” she asked tentatively. His reply, when it came, was labored and weak, as if he were struggling against someone, or something, or both.
“How, Justin? Tell me how.” Forcing herself to be calm, she waited anxiously for his reply. Finally, it came.
“Where are you?”
Samantha threw her Vision above the clearing, looking for other auras. The clearing was not as clear to her Vision as it should have been. Some kind of fogginess inhabited it that was visible to her Vision, but that she knew would be invisible to the natural eye. Despite that, she was able to find two auras almost immediately, within a few feet of each other. Dropping her Vision to ground level, she placed it about ten feet away from way from them. Justin was sitting on the ground with his back against the conversation log. His head was down as if he didn’t have the strength to hold it up. Cerberus, who was straddling the log like he would set on a horse, was talking to Justin. As Samantha watched, Cerberus grabbed a handful of Justin’s hair and raised Justin’s head up for a few seconds before letting it drop again, his mouth moving all the time. Samantha guessed that he had been making some point to Justin. She couldn’t tell if Justin was in any pain or not.
Get Cerberus, he had told her. Samantha scanned the area for anything she could use as a weapon, preferably as a club. After a few minutes, she found something suitable. She rehearsed her actions several times, knowing that she only had a few seconds in the clearing before her senses dulled and her energy level dropped to almost nothing. Satisfied, she projected herself into the clearing a few feet behind Cerberus. Swinging her makeshift club as hard as she could, she connected with the side of Cerberus’s head, then projected herself back out of the clearing. Quickly sending her Vision back in, she noted with dismay that Cerberus was still standing. When Justin had hit him, he had collapsed immediately. The obvious conclusion was that whatever force was in the clearing, rather than being oppressive to him like it was to her, was helping him.
Well, she thought to herself, if a physical object can’t hurt him-
Withdrawing her Vision and pulling up his aura, she tried streaming the same love to him that had cleared the evil out of him before. Just before hitting the aura, the stream paused, as if coming up against an invisible barrier. Putting more force behind stream only seemed to strengthen the barrier. Realizing the futility, Samantha stopped streaming.
Through the impath connection, Samantha felt what it was costing Justin to communicate with her. His next impath put a genuine fear into her.
She replied back immediately, the panic obvious in her impath. “I’m trying to help you, Justin, but nothing is working. If you have any ideas, I need to hear them-now.”
“con. veyance. tube.”
Conveyance tube! Of course! She had never sent her Vision into it as Justin had, but the fact that he was suggesting it, told her that help would be found there. Wasting no time, she sent her Vision directly into the tube and looked up into it. What she saw was another aura, or something created to look like an aura, only considerably larger than any she had ever seen. As she examined it, she realized that it was capable of doing much more than hers or Justin’s, and with far more power. The moment she projected herself into the tube, the aura established a connection to her, and she realized that everything this aura was capable of doing was now under her control. Immediately, she shot her Vision to within a foot of Cerberus. This had better work, she thought, sending a force through her Vision and at Cerberus. To her satisfaction, the force took him from the log and slammed him against a tree about twenty-five feet away. Sending her Vision to where he laid, she watched long enough to assure herself that he was not moving.
Now she had to help Justin. Not knowing exactly what was wrong with him besides being cold, she improvised a cure. Using the aura she was linked to, she streamed warmth through the oppressive heaviness that had filled the clearing and gently laid it over and around his body. Impathing him, she said, “Justin, I’m trying to warm you, but I’m not sure how much to give you. You need to talk to me if you can.”
He replied almost immediately. “wonder. ful.” he told her. He didn’t seem to be struggling as hard to communicate. “keep it. coming just like. that.” After two minutes of streaming-long minutes, thought Samantha-she saw movement from him. After several attempts, he was able to get up from his knees and sit down on the log.
“Stay there for a minute or two,” ordered Samantha. “I’ll keep the warmth coming. When you feel strong enough, project yourself into the conveyance tube.”
Justin acknowledged by lifting his arm up slightly for a few seconds. Finally, he stood up, looking around at the clearing. Closing his eyes, he placed his Vision in the conveyance tube beside Samantha, and projected himself there. After a fierce hug between him and Samantha and assurances that each was okay, he studied the conveyance aura. “I’m guessing it linked to you like it just did to me,” he told Samantha.
“That’s probably why you’re with me now and not still playing couch potato on the log,” she told him. “I tried streaming some warmth to you from outside the clearing, but the force of my stream was too weak. This thing is incredible. What happened while I was gone, by the way?”
“Stupidity,” Justin answered. “I was tired. Cerberus looked like he was asleep, so I closed my eyes-ostensibly for just a few minutes. The next thing I know, Cerberus is waking me. That’s when I discovered that I had almost no energy. It was somewhat educational however. I found out that the evil spirits got back into him by going into the ground outside the clearing and coming up directly under him.”
“I saw him pull up your head by your hair. What was that about?”
“Rubbing it in. Before freezing me, he had to tell me that no one manhandles him like I did and lives for long. He had just started the freezing process when you impathed me.” Checking his watch, Justin uttered a grunt of displeasure. “Great,” he commented. “Probably a few more hours until Leland and team show up.”
“So what do we do?” asked Samantha.
“Well, I’m not very excited about waiting here in the conveyance tube until they get here.” Justin looked out to where Cerberus lay, then up the tube at the aura, then back at Samantha. “What if we try finishing this ourselves?” he asked.
Samantha thought that one over. “Let’s do it,” she said, determinedly. “It shouldn’t be very hard. When I sent the warmth to you, all I had to do was think about what I needed, and it was provided to me through the link.”
“That’s the impression I’m getting from it,” confirmed Justin. “I think we need to restore the clearing back to the way it was before Cerberus came. Then we can work on Cerberus.”
“Agreed,” said Samantha.
Simultaneously then, each transmitted their desire through the aural link. Almost immediately, the aura began streaming an invisible force through their Vision and out into the clearing. Seeing that Justin had chosen to begin close to the conveyance tube, Samantha moved her Vision to the other side of the clearing and worked towards his. She willed the flow from the aura to increase, and watched the oppressive heaviness dissolve completely as the power of the flow spread out into the clearing.
“Wow, Lady Fair,” said Justin when they had finished the restoration. “You must have cleared double what I did.”
“Remember telling me that the spirits got back into Cerberus by coming up through the ground directly under him?”
“Yes,” said Justin.
“Well, that won’t happen again. I also used the stream to treat the ground inside the clearing, from the surface down to about three feet. Now, no spirits can come up from underneath without running into the treated area. Our clearing is completely sealed.”
“Good thinking, Lady Fair,” Justin told her, then added with admiration, “Very good thinking, in fact. Now for the last thing.”
As they left what had been the safety of the conveyance tube, Samantha paused, testing the mood of the clearing with her senses. Satisfied, she caught up with Justin. Together, they walked confidently to where Cerberus lay, still unconscious.
“I’m not sure how to protect his aura once we get the spirits back out of him,” said Justin. “Remember what Leland said about an eviction also protecting the aura so the spirits couldn’t reenter?”
“Yes,” said Samantha, “and I’ve got a idea about that. What if we do more of what we did last time?”
“What do you mean?” Justin asked.
“Well, the moment the spirits left him last time, we stopped the streaming. What if we keep it going for a few more minutes this time?”
“More of the same for longer,” Justin mused. “I think that just might do it, Lady Fair.”
Though he was still unconscious, they streamed into Cerberus’s aura, watching as the spirits erupted from him, fleeing up and above the clearing. As the last of the evil spirits left, Justin and Samantha kept the stream flowing. Their decision about how long to keep at it was cut short when the streams suddenly shut down on their own.
“Well,” commented Samantha, surprised. “I guess we’re done. I think the aura inside the tube has a built in ‘that’s enough’ feature.” They examined Cerberus’s aura, noting with satisfaction that there was no sense of vulnerability coming from it this time. Though they didn’t fully understand how, they knew that what they had done would prevent the spirits from reentering Cerberus should they try again. With that thought came the realization that the man lying on the ground in the clearing was no longer Cerberus-and would never again be Cerberus.
Pulling his thoughts from Edward or whatever his real name was, Justin looked at Samantha, then followed her upward gaze with his eyes.
“Use your Vision,” she told him.
He did. “The spirits are gone,” he said.
“Yes,” Samantha confirmed. “Somehow, I think they’ve sensed that Edward or whatever his name is, is of no use to them anymore.”
Realization dawned on Justin then that it was over-it, meaning everything. His and Samantha’s necessity to remain constantly on guard; their need to be sensitive to the slightest danger; his constant worrying about Samantha’s safety when they were not together-all of it. The relief at being able to finally and totally relax was almost overwhelming. Taking Samantha in his arms and holding her tightly, he expressed his feelings to her.
“It’s over, Lady Fair,” he said, almost weak with relief. “It’s finally and really over.”