Kat stopped in the backyard of her house, panting. As she bent on her knees and tried to catch her breath, she stared at the blood staining all her clothes.
"Gross," she muttered, but she wiped her silver blade clean on her jeans anyway. The clothes were trashed; she didn't think shapeshifter guts came out of cotton.
She stared at her house. It was full daylight - she'd been lucky to get home without being spotted by the cops- so her parents would see her if she ran into them. But at least neither of them were outside, puttering around.
The back door was unlocked the way she left it, so she snuck inside and heard her mom and dad talking in the den. She leaned on the door slowly until it closed, and tiptoed around to the stairs.
She'd climbed up the first stair when her cell phone rang. With a hiss, she grabbed her pocket and ran up the stairs.
"Kat? Is that you?"
"I'll be down in a sec!" Kat called. She ran in her room and locked the door. The phone had stopped ringing, so she peeled off her bloody clothes.
The phone rang again as she yanked her socks off. She picked it up in a huff. "What?"
"Hi, it's me."
"Gavin," Kat said with a groan. She studied her now-bared torso in the mirror; the blood was smeared all over her skin, too. She tossed all of her dirty clothes in a bag, and said, "I don't wanna talk right now, okay?"
"But you haven't wanted to talk for the past couple months."
"Probably because I dumped you." She kicked the bag into her closet - she'd have to throw it all out later - and shoved the door closed.
"I know, and I thought it might've been because of...the thing. With the asylum."
"You think?" Kat's knives were still on the dresser. She slipped one inside the pocket of her robe - she didn't go anywhere without one, these days - and dragged the case for the second out from under her bed with her toes. The crappy EMF detector she kept with the knives whistled as the case drew out; this wasn't the first time it'd switched on by accident. "You didn't listen to me when I wanted to leave the asylum, you didn't listen to me when I broke it off after we got out of the asylum, and you're not listening now. It's. Over."
"But Kat...I can do better. I've learned a lot since then."
"Good. Make some other girl happy."
Kat froze over her knife case, her phone pressed to her ear, as a knock sounded on her door. "Gotta go," she told Gavin.
She hung up the phone and tossed it on her dresser. "Yeah?"
"Honey, there's someone here to see you," her mom said.
Kat glanced at her feet. Her latest pair of sneakers had given out, and she'd been lucky she hadn't dragged dirt and blood behind her. But the tops of her feet were caked.
"It's not Gavin, is it?" she asked.
"No, it's a woman from the Rockford Register Star. About the internship?"
Her mom sighed patiently. "We talked about this last week. You need extracurriculars."
"Oh," Kat said. It was probably a dinner conversation. Kat hadn't been doing a very good job at focusing during dinner lately. "Um, this isn't a great time. Can you get her number?"
"You know." She struggled to think of an excuse as she opened the case, switched off the EMF detector, and placed her knife inside. "That time of the month. I need a shower."
"Okay," her mom said, appeased. "Do you need me to run the wash?"
"No, I'll take care of it." Just like she took care of the shapeshifter. Man, had its piles of skin reeked. She still smelled like it a little.
Her mom padded away from the door, and Kat closed the case and slid it back under her bed. Kat ached for the shower. The hot water would be heaven, even if it wasn't a treat to watch dried blood wash down the drain. But the bathroom door was right by the stairs, and she didn't want her parents or a stranger to see her unwashed.
She rolled her shoulders and peeked out the front window. The stranger in question stepped out onto the front walk, waving goodbye to her mother. The woman was blonde, thin, probably around the same height as Kat and only a few years older. Kat watched without fear, since she knew it was impossible to see through the tinting on her window.
But just as the woman stopped in front of a red car parked in the street, she paused and looked up at Kat's window. Kat tensed.
"She can't see you," she muttered. There was no reason to worry.
Until the woman waved up at her, with a smile.
Kat moved backward so fast she hit her bed and nearly fell onto her mattress. She winced as the engine started outside.
"Calm down," she told herself. Just because she'd been spending nearly half a year fighting all kinds of baddies didn't mean this woman wanted her dead.
Her mom was waiting outside the bathroom door as Kat stepped out, rubbing her hair with a towel.
"Here's her number."
Kat studied the paper her mom extended. "She didn't have a business card?"
"My, aren't we picky."
"It's just..." Kat sighed and took the paper. "I don't know her name."
Her mom frowned. "She said you called the paper asking for her."
"I have no idea who she is."
"She introduced herself as Meg. Ring any bells?"
Kat was about to say no, but stopped herself. If this woman was trouble, she didn't want her parents wondering.
"Oh, Meg," Kat said. "Sorry. I didn't ask for her, but she was the one who I ended up talking to. I got confused."
Her mom shook her head. "Honestly, Kat. I don't know where your head's been lately."
Kat gave her most winning smile and moved around her mom and into her bedroom. She kept staring at the paper. She only knew the number was local, judging by the area code. She bounced the paper on her left hand, and wondered if she should find out more. If the woman hadn't forced her way in earlier, she wasn't likely to later. Kat had been putting any kinds of protections she could find on the house.
Maybe she should spend the night like a normal teenager. She could call her best friend and hang out, instead of lurking in alleys or finding out if the woman from the paper wanted to drink Kat's blood or something.
The phone on her dresser rang, and she checked the number. Gavin again.
"Guess it answers that question," Kat muttered, as she pressed the reject button.
She hadn't been good at being normal this year. Why start now?
Kat got her dad to lend her his car by saying she was going to the library for school. And she did go to the library, even if it wasn't her final destination. The library's paranormal section was laughable, but she'd gotten a book about ghosts and a book about demons through interlibrary loan, and they'd come in a couple days ago.
"Writing a story?" the librarian asked as he scanned the books into the computer.
Kat nodded and accepted the books with a tight smile. She'd always been a crap storyteller. But her lying was getting better, if nothing else.
She tossed the books in the back seat when she got back in the car and headed to her next destination.
First, she drove through McDonald's and got a shake to sip while she watched the parking lot. McDonald's around dinner time was a great place to check for cars. But none of the red cars resembled the one Meg drove.
After she finished her shake, Kat drove around and checked off her mental list on possible places Meg might be. The paper where she supposedly worked. Grocery stores. Nightclubs, since it was a Saturday evening. A couple of motels. Back alleys. But everything was turning up a bust, and the more ground Kat covered, the heavier her eyelids got.
She wasn't entirely surprised when she turned toward home and spotted the car, parked at a red light. When the light turned green and Meg turned left, Kat counted to ten, pulled a u-turn,and started pursuit, headlights off.
She didn't have far to go. And she figured out where Meg was going after a few seconds; there was only one destination on this road.
"No way," Kat whispered to herself.
Sure enough, Roosevelt Asylum, dark and looming, came into view.
Kat followed long enough to make sure Meg was parking, and veered off to the side before the entrance to the parking area. She eased the car off the road, killed the engine, and made her way to the building.
Meg had already disappeared inside when Kat closed in. Kat heard a scream echo out of a broken window on the second window. She looked around as fast as she could. There were a couple barrels by a window ledge, and she winced.
"Great," she muttered, but she went up to them anyway. There was no way she'd sneak inside. Not until she knew what was going on.
She climbed onto the first barrel without any trouble, but the minute she shifted her weight to heft onto the second, it groaned and creaked. Kat froze and waited to see if anyone would hear her. But nothing happened, so she made herself pull up on the second and jump to the window ledge.
A woman spoke. "--visited here a few months ago."
The window Kat crouched next to was obscured with grime, but she found an empty panel and slid toward it. Candles propped on overturned gurneys illuminated the middle of the room.
"Because a bunch of kids broke in!" The panicked voice sounded like a guy, and Kat peeked over. It was an old white guy tied to a chair, with a gag hanging loose around his neck. "I fixed the locks after...I never saw two guys."
Oh no, Kat thought.
"That's not what I want to hear."
"I-I'm sorry, I don't..."
Meg shoved a blade in the man's throat, and he gurgled around his own blood. As the man jerked and died, Meg placed a bowl under his bleeding throat. Her eyes reflected all the light in the room, to the point where they appeared black.
Kat clapped a hand over her mouth to keep a cry from escaping into the air. But it didn't stop her free hand from shaking, or nausea from swamping her at the smell of blood in the air.
She had to leave. Now.
Kat stumbled back to the barrels as fast as she could without making noise.
Meg knows where I live.
Kat parked her dad's car in the driveway and leaned on the steering wheel. She could make noise now, cry and barf and shake. But she felt nothing now. Nothing but a slightly queasy emptiness.
"What good would it do anyway?" she whispered.
Would having a physical reaction to seeing a man killed make her better able to take on Meg? No. Would it make her a better person? Maybe. But all Kat could feel was tired, after nearly twelve hours of running around town and fighting and hiding, and she needed rest.
She climbed out of the car, remembered the books in the backseat, and grabbed them. And then she walked inside the house, into her room, and fell asleep the minute she hit the pillow.
The ringing of her phone on the dresser woke Kat in the morning. The sunlight in her eyes - she'd forgotten to draw the curtains before she passed out - finished the job.
With a groan, she lurched to her feet and picked up the phone.
"Yeah?" she muttered.
"Kat, thank God."
Great. Just what she needed. "Gavin, I was asleep."
"I know, I know, but hear me out."
"No, Gavin. Sleep."
"Do you know a blonde chick?"
Kat's eyes opened wide. "What?"
"She came by yesterday. She said she knows you."
"Listen to me," Kat said, clenching her hands. "Don't let her in your house, whatever you do. Don't talk to her, don't go anywhere alone--"
Gavin cut her off with a wordless yell. Kat pulled the phone away from her ear reflexively, but said, "Gavin? Gavin!"
There was a loud scuffling noise, and a female voice said, "Kat. You never called me."
"Let him go!"
"I saw you following me last night."
Kat swallowed hard. "What do you want?"
"You, at the asylum. With your little boyfriend here."
"Ex-boyfriend," Kat said automatically, then flushed. So not the point here. "How do I know you won't kill me?"
Meg laughed into the phone. "I think Gavin's guts would make a nice addition to the walls, don't you? Add a little color."
Kat got the picture. "When?"
"Tonight. It's always so much more fun to leave people stewing all day, don't you think?"
Gavin whimpered, muffled, and Kat said, "Don't touch him."
"He'll be alive if you show up around nine this evening," Meg said. "If it's ten...well, he might be missing a few parts. And I wouldn't be any later."
The phone went dead, and Kat checked the clock. It was about nine in the morning. She had twelve hours to figure out what Meg was - no human eyes as black as she'd had - to come up with a plan, and to get ready to rescue Gavin.
While she choked down a bowl of cereal - she needed the food, even if her stomach churned the entire time - her mom set the library books in front of her.
"Katherine," her mom said. "Why were these on the floor in the front of the house?"
Kat gulped down her cereal. Guess she'd been more tired than she thought. "Um, sorry."
"Treat your library books with a little more respect, please."
Her mom started to walk off, but Kat stood and hugged her. Her mom hugged her back, but broke off after a moment and said, "What's this about?"
"Just..." Kat couldn't say she was probably going to be killed tonight. What she could say was, "Thanks."
Her mom smiled, but with a furrow between her eyebrows. "Kat."
Kat smiled and sat back down. Her mom hovered, but eventually walked into another room, giving Kat a last glance before she slipped out of sight.
Her own gaze fell on the books on the table; the one on top was about demons. Kat flipped the cover open with half a smile on her face. Kat's goodbye hug had made her mom more suspicious than books about the paranormal.
The book about demons fell open, revealing an illustration of a man. His eyes were black.
Kat squinted and read the text. Her smile grew. Maybe luck was on her side after all.
The rest of the day passed in a blur of shopping, and planning. But Kat made good time. By the time her watch read 8:55 pm, she was standing at the front of Roosevelt Asylum next to Meg's red car, checking her boots for her knives and her jacket for her other supplies.
Maybe she should've been scared. She certainly had been at different points in the day. But staring up at the building, anger overtook any other feeling. This demon came into her town, killed a guy, and figured she could kill a couple more? No way. Not without a fight.
She balled her hands into fists, and walked inside.
A path of candles led up, presumably, to where Meg was holding Gavin, and Kat followed. But she paused between two hallways, turned on a flashlight, and checked the right-hand hall. It seemed exactly the way she'd left it on her visit earlier in the day. But her watch beeped nine, and she knew she didn't have a chance to make sure.
She went to the left and eased around a wall. Sure enough, Meg was pacing a little in the room, and Gavin was muttering. Which meant he was alive. It would have to work.
Kat took a deep breath and screamed. "Let me go!"
She kept screaming as she followed the hallway. She jumped slightly over her line of salt, and let her cry get quieter as she pressed into the shadows.
"Come on," she muttered. It was ridiculous, sure, but it had to work. It was her only plan.
Heels clicked on the floor in a rush, then slowed as they approached the hall Kat was in. She breathed a sigh of relief.
A candle came into view.
"Kat?" Meg said.
The candle stopped in place. It was now or never.
Kat began chanting under her breath. She'd only learned the exorcism in the book today, but she'd practiced it all afternoon, and she remembered most of the words, at least.
Or so she thought, until an invisible force picked her up and slammed her against one of the concrete walls. She gasped as breath escaped her lungs.
"Nice try," Meg said. Kat could see her face now, in the light of the candle. "But your salt line's broken."
Kat looked at the floor, and the gap in the line at Meg's feet. Crap. Kat must've broken it by accident.
"I was going to let you talk to Sam or Dean before you died," Meg said, kicking at the salt with her foot. She stepped forward. "Whoever picked up the phone. And then I would've made it quick. But no, you had to make it difficult."
Tears welled to Kat's eyes as she struggled to break free without success. It couldn't end here. Not like this.
Meg came forward until she was just inches from Kat's face. The light stung her eyes. "And Gavin? He's going to hear every single one of your screams before he dies."
Kat winced and waited for whatever was about to come.
But her pocket squealed.
"What was that?" Meg said, reaching in. She pulled out the EMF detector. "What's this?"
It squealed again, but getting louder and louder. Kat's eyes skimmed the darkness, but she couldn't see beyond Meg's face.
"It detects ghosts," she said. "When there isn't electricity. That's why you're using candles, right? No power?"
"The Winchesters were here," Meg said. "They must've exorcised them."
"Only one. There were more."
Meg put the candle on the ground, took the flashlight from Kat's hand, and turned it on. She turned in a circle.
The beam illuminated deformed, twisted faces.
"Great," Meg said, as she swung around. There were a good dozen of them, standing in two lines on either side. "Perfect."
As Meg drew back, the pressure eased off Kat enough for her to pull her bottle of holy water from her coat. She unscrewed the cap and tossed water in Meg's face. Meg shrieked and brushed at her smoking skin with her hands.
Kat cringed - it looked like Meg's skin would melt off - but she shook it off and chanted again. Meg snarled in her direction, but Kat threw more water in Meg's face, and Meg stumbled backward. The ghosts followed, and a chill danced down Kat's spine.
"Screw this," Meg snarled.
She dropped the flashlight and the EMF detector and ran down the stairs. The pressure left Kat entirely, and she felt to the ground with a thud. Kat pushed to her feet and ran, yelling the exorcism as she went, but tires screeching on pavement drowned her out before she could make it to the stairs.
Kat picked up the flashlight and shined it back in the hall. The ghosts were gone.
"Thanks," she said.
The EMF squealed one last time in reply.
"Kat?" Gavin said as she cut the ropes holding him.
She nodded. "It's me. You okay?"
"My parents..." He swallowed what sounded like a groan as the rope cut free. The skin on his wrist was raw and red. "They're out of town. If they'd been home--"
"They weren't." Kat cut the other rope free, and Gavin sagged forward. She picked him up and felt her muscles ache in response. "Are you hurt?"
"She punched me."
Kat looked him up and down. He had a lump on his forehead, black and blue on his nose, and blood stained on his shirt, possibly from his nose.
"You seem okay," she said as she helped him to his feet. "But don't worry. I'll take you to the hospital."
Gavin was shaky, but he stood on his own. He rubbed his wrists. "Do we have to?"
Kat resisted the urge to groan. "Gavin, you could have a concussion. Or a broken nose."
They walked out of the room.
"Does this mean we can get back together?"