“What happens to Payne when we capture Quentin?” Barlowe said. “Once he’s no longer a host, does he become Payne again? Will he remember anything about being a host?”
“I don’t know,” Abigail said. “None of Quentin’s hosts have ever survived to ask.”
“One did.” Barlowe felt like he was drowning. “You did.”
Abigail stopped mid bite to stare at Barlowe. Laying down her fork, she thought back to the day she reunited with her mentor. It was a cold day, and she found him waiting for her on a memorial bench outside of his family crypt. A bit green around the gills, a potent aroma of decay wafting from his Italian-made suit, and his Ray Bans shielding his cloudy baby blues.
From there her memory became scattered. Closing her eyes, she concentrated on what happened after he pulled her into the granite tomb. Frayed images fluttered just outside her periphery.
Fingering the delicate sliver chain that always hung around her neck, she worried the jeweled pendant like rosary beads. Abigail’s eye’s suddenly opened. A small gasp escaped from deep inside her chest.
“How could I be such a fool? The emeralds!” Abigail’s voice rose in excitement. “That’s why I could sense him. The gems have been his haven before.”
The final element of her plan clicked into place.
“I know what to do now.” Abigail gathered her coat and purse. “Can you take me back to my place?”
Barlowe threw several $20 bills on the table and hurried out of the restaurant with Abigail.
In his car, driving back to her apartment, Abigail outlined her scheme to capture Quentin, and Barlowe’s part in the plot.
“You would do that?” Barlowe pulled into the apartment parking lot. Turning off the car, he couldn’t look at Abigail. “You would sacrifice me?
“I didn’t want to. That’s why I haven’t done anything yet.” Abigail tried to get him to understand. “Quentin is an ancient evil, and I’m the only one who can stop him. I know how to protect you now. You have to trust me.”
“Nothing about this says, ‘trust me’.” Barlowe questioned anew everything she told him since they met. “You could just be some bat-shit crazy bitch. There’s no Quentin, and you’re not Iona or Abigail. All of this is some whacked fantasy you’ve created.”
“Come upstairs, please.” Abigail reached out, but didn’t touch him. “I can show you something that will prove everything I’ve told you is true.”
There was something in her voice, not pleading, but conviction. Barlowe checked that his service weapon was free from its holster, then helped Abigail out of the passenger side of the car.
Once inside, Abigail kicked off her shoes and paced around the living room, muttering to herself.
Barlowe, too on edge to sit, made sure he had a direct escape route to the apartment door.
Abigail finally stopped pacing and pulled her sweater over her head. Turning her back to Barlowe, she unhooked her bra dropping it to the floor, then stepped out of her jeans.
Two long scars ran vertically in the shape of a V down her back, starting between her shoulder blades, and coming to a near point at her waist.
Moved by her injury, Barlowe tenderly traced the shimmering pink lines with his fingertips. Her skin trembled under his touch, and she began a slow shift into her true self.
“I’m fallen.” Abigail whispered, her voice husky with emotion. “My penitence is to stop Quentin.”