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Mortal Kiss: Fool's Silver *Chapter 20*
Koskay left them alone again after that. It was almost as if he was toying with them, probably to see what they would say once he’d left the room. But Finn was wise to that now. He looked around the walls, and spotted the listening devices. As soon as Koskay had shut the door, he began to struggle again. He could feel the ropes around his wrists loosening. ‘This guy is mad. Completely, totally mad,’ he muttered.
Faye was still watching Lucas, her eyes full of tears. ‘What does he want with us? What is he doing to Lucas?’
Finn didn’t answer; he was concentrating on the job in hand. He felt his thumb edging under the first rope, just a fraction. His wrists were burning, and his skin was being rubbed raw. But desperate times called for desperate measures. With one last, mighty effort, he got his thumb under the rope. The rest was easy, and in seconds he had his hands free. A few minutes later he was on his feet. He reached up to rip the bugs out of the walls.
‘How did you do that?’ Faye asked in amazement as Finn ducked towards her and began pulling at her ties.
Finn smiled grimly. ‘I’ve been around a while, remember? You learn things . . .’ He glanced at the door that led back the way they had come. ‘We don’t have long before Koskay realizes, and he’ll have put guards outside that door. We can’t go that way.’ As he pulled the last of the ropes from around Faye’s ankles and helped her to her feet, he nodded at the other door. ‘It’ll have to be that one. Are you ready?’
‘What about Lucas?’ she asked. ‘You’re not going to just leave him?’
‘We’ll come back for him, I promise. But we have to get out of here now, or we’ll all be in trouble.’
Faye shook her head. ‘I can’t,’ she said. ‘I can’t just leave him here. And I can’t believe you’d even consider it, either!’
Finn shut his eyes briefly. ‘We don’t have a choice,’ he said. ‘If I could take him, I would, Faye. But I can’t. Can you carry him? Because he can’t walk – and as soon as I leave this room I’m going to be as useless as I was when we first entered the mine. Remember?’ He put his fingers under her chin, tipping it up. He could still see tears in her eyes. ‘We’ll find the wolves. We’ll come back – and now we know what we’re dealing with, we can take Koskay and his creatures. But right now we have to run. Please, Faye – we don’t have time to argue. We have to get out of here.’
Faye turned her head away and looked at Lucas for one long moment. Then she nodded. Finn didn’t hesitate. He grabbed her hand and pulled her towards the second door, rattling its handle. It was locked, just as he’d expected. Dropping Faye’s hand, he planted one foot against the wall and gripped the handle with both hands. His arms strained so hard that he could feel them being pulled out of their sockets.
Just as he thought the door was never going to budge, with a horrible shearing sound the lock gave way. The door sprang open. Finn looked over his shoulder, certain that Koskay would have heard, but the first door remained shut. He pushed Faye through the door and then followed her, pulling it shut behind him.
He turned, and almost bumped into Faye. He was about to ask why she had stopped when he saw what she was staring at.
They had entered another white, sterile room. This one was larger, and filled with rows and rows of chairs exactly like the one Lucas was in; each one had a person in it. The room was filled with a dull hum that filled his ears like cotton wool. Finn shook his head as Faye approached one of the chairs. She seemed to be in a daze.
‘These chairs are connected,’ she said. ‘The wires, I mean. The one Lucas is in – the wires aren’t connected to him, but these . . .’
Finn saw what she meant. Every person in the room had wires and tubes attached to their wrists and legs, which were all connected to the chairs. At first Finn thought the tubes were pumping something into them, but then he realized that they were taking something out. But it wasn’t blood. It wasn’t even a liquid . . . A shiver passed through him.
‘What is it?’ Faye whispered. ‘What’s he doing to all these people?’
The answer came to Finn like a bolt from the blue. ‘He said he’d found a way to live for ever. This is it.’
Faye looked at him, her eyes huge. ‘What?’
‘He’s bleeding these people of their lives. Their . . . souls, if you like.’
Faye shook her head. ‘That’s not possible.’
‘It shouldn’t be. But that’s what the silver’s for.’ Finn pointed to a tube. The fluid that bubbled through it glinted as it caught the light. ‘It’s the oldest element. It’s pure, and ancient in the truest sense. It magnifies every supernatural thing – focuses it like . . . like a prism. That’s why werewolves are affected by it – and it’s why Koskay is here.’
‘So – he’s stealing these people’s lives? To live for ever?’
Finn nodded, running his eyes over the rows and rows of victims. ‘But that’s the thing. Human life doesn’t last for ever. And even the silver can’t counteract the effect of removing it from its natural source.’
‘That’s what he’s doing with Lucas,’ Faye realized. ‘Isn’t it? He wants to live for ever. He doesn’t just want more human life. He wants . . . he wants immortal life.’
Finn stared at her, seeing the horror on her face. ‘I think that’s exactly what he wants.’ He grabbed her hand. ‘Come on – we have to get out of here. Now.’
He looked around the long room, seeing another door at the far end. They ran towards it, weaving their way between the chairs. But before they could reach it there was a clang behind them. Finn looked over his shoulder to see the door they had entered through flung back on its hinges. Koskay’s creatures scrambled into the room, shrieking. He heard Faye scream and pulled her onwards.
The door was shut and locked. Finn strained against it as the sound of the scrabbling zombies came nearer. Desperation spurred him on, but there was nothing he could do. The door wouldn’t budge. He gave up, turning to face their pursuers and pushing Faye behind him. The creatures formed a semicircle around them, snarling, snapping, but not attacking.
‘Well, well, well,’ said a drawling, lazy foreign voice. It echoed around the walls, along with Koskay’s footsteps. He walked towards them, and the creatures parted to let him through. ‘That was a little stupid, was it not, my children? Where did you think you were going?’
Finn faced him, breathing hard. He stretched out his arms, shielding Faye with his body.
‘I know what you’re doing,’ he said. ‘I know what you want. Let her go. Let Faye go. She’s no good to you. You don’t need her.’
Koskay grinned, his white teeth glinting. ‘Ah, but you see, my dear boy, that is the thing about being rich, is it not? You can have what you don’t need.’ He jerked his head at them both. ‘Get them back in that room. And this time, tie them properly!’
Faye tried to move her hands, but they were bound so tightly that she couldn’t even feel her fingers. She was hungry too – they’d been given water – it seemed like hours ago – but no food. Koskay’s voice droned on and on, as it had ever since they’d been recaptured. He’d been lecturing them on how he had got where he was today. Faye felt sick with fear and horror.
‘I have been experimenting for years,’ Koskay explained. ‘Not on supernaturals. Not at first, anyway.’
‘Those people in that room . . . is that what happened to everyone in this town?’ she asked. ‘That’s where all those creatures came from, isn’t it? You drained them, turned them into . . . into zombies. All of them. Didn’t you? You stole their lives!’
‘Well, they weren’t really using them properly, my dear, stuck here, in this dead town.’ Koskay laughed. ‘Although this place does have one thing going for it. The silver! Such a wonderful element. Actually, at first I knew nothing about the supernaturals. I just wanted to find more silver. I knew about the silver trail, of course, but everyone said all the metal was gone. Everyone except Jeff.’
‘Jeff?’ asked Faye. ‘We – we met him.’
The Russian nodded. ‘He told me. He tells me everything, you see. That is how I knew to expect you. He knows silver better than anyone in the world. He’s drawn to it, like a bug to bright light. It was he who told me about this place. So I bought the town, and . . . Here. We. Are.’
‘But . . . but I don’t understand,’ said Faye. ‘How did you know about Lucas? How did you know where to find him?’
Koskay shook his head. ‘I didn’t. I was looking for Mercy. We had perfected the transfer protocols, you see – in theory, at least. We just had to do it for real, with a proper immortal – so that I, Alexei Koskay, would live for ever. More powerful even than Mercy Morrow. Nothing will touch me.’
‘How did you know about Mercy?’ Faye asked him suddenly. ‘If you were looking for her – you must have known she was there. But no one else did, so how . . . ?’
He sighed. ‘It was all rather easy in the end. Poor Jeff. What a life he has led.’
‘What do you mean?’ Finn asked. ‘Why poor Jeff?’
Koskay shrugged. ‘He loved her, you know. And I think she loved him. Enough to marry him, anyway. But that only lasted a few years, and then she cast him off. Such a horrible woman – if you can call such a creature a woman. He started to drink to hide the pain . . . and eventually he ended up with me.’
Finn stared at Koskay. ‘Jeff was married to Mercy? And he . . . he told you about her? Just like that?’
‘Oh no,’ said the Russian. ‘Not just like that. Not just like that at all. But, like I said, Jeff turned to drink to ease his pain, yes. A lot of drink. I don’t think he even remembers half the things he tells me . . .’ Koskay dabbed the handkerchief at his mouth thoughtfully. ‘Anyway, Mercy has gone. But in her place, her son remained – so my men brought him back here, instead. At first I didn’t think a half-blood would be potent enough. But do you know what? We have been doing some tests. Oh yes, we have done quite a lot of tests with Lucas, here. Tests, tests, tests. He has been very, very helpful, in fact. We have done it all very slowly, to make sure we can achieve the right effect. We are lucky that the boy is so strong – he has already withstood more than any average human. And do you know what? Mixed with the right solution of silver, his life-force turns out to be quite effective. Not as effective as a true supernatural being would be, of course – but what is that saying . . . ? Beggars cannot be choosers. His life-force is stronger than the average human’s, for sure. So now – now we can move to the final phase.’
‘Koskay!’ Finn bellowed. Faye watched as he strained at his bonds. ‘Touch Lucas again, and I will kill you. I swear it. Do you hear me? I swear it. I swear it . . .’
The Russian simply looked amused. Ignoring Finn, he went over to a keypad set in the wall, beside Lucas’s chair, and pressed a button.
A whirring noise filled the room as a panel of tiles slid back to reveal a clear glass chamber, set into the rock face beyond. It seemed to be completely sealed, with a mess of metal tubes and wires suspended from the ceiling. Arm restraints were riveted into the transparent walls. Koskay pressed another button and the glass door slid smoothly open. He walked back towards them, stopping in front of Faye.
‘There is my brilliant device. Is it not magnificent? It is what I once used on humans, but now it has been adapted for Lucas here. But of course, it turns out that I have more than one supernatural brother at my disposal now. Doesn’t it?’
Faye stared up at him. ‘What do you mean?’ she asked, in a whisper that echoed weakly around the hard tiles of room.
‘I am not an unfeeling man,’ Koskay said, in a reasonable voice. ‘And I have been watching you all. I can tell that you, my dear Faye, care for both these brothers. And why not? They are both big, strapping, handsome American boys. So, here is the thing. I will let you choose.’
‘Choose . . . choose what?’
Koskay shrugged. ‘Which I should save, and which I should use. One of them I will let go, and the other will pass on his supernatural life to me. He will still survive, of course, though he’ll look a little different. He’ll join the rest of my servants, down in the mine.’
Koskay slipped a hand into his pocket and pulled out a penknife. Flicking it open, he knelt and quickly cut the ties at Faye’s wrists.
‘Don’t touch her,’ Finn screamed, with more fury than Faye had ever heard. ‘Koskay . . .’
The Russian ignored him. It was as if he wasn’t even there. He pulled Faye close, brushing one finger along her cheekbone.
‘It’s up to you, my dear,’ he said softly, holding Faye close. ‘Which one do you love the most? Which one should be saved . . . and which should not?’
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