It was the middle of the night when Kaylie and I finally made it back to the Swag Pag's house. The minute we set foot out of the car, she reverted back to her old self, cooing and begging for D.K. to come look at the pretty things she'd bought. I let her go without comment, my bed sounding like a much better option than watching Kaylie put on a fashion show for D.K.
Kimberly was still asleep when I got to our room. I didn't wake her up— in fact, I did my best not to look at her as I got dressed for bed and laid down. It had been a long, long day. I'd gotten Kimberly her medicine, which was good, but I hadn't taken care of the bigger issue. D.K. was still alive, and it didn't look like there was anything I could do about that. At least I'd learned about how this whole mess had started. Maybe I could use that to my advantage somehow.
Problems for tomorrow, I told myself. Tonight, just sleep…
And, just like that, I asleep. There's something about taking care of a kid and attempting a murder all in the same day that could just wear a girl out.
It was just before three in the morning when my door was thrown open, flooding our room with light. I immediately sat up, shielding my eyes with one hand and throwing off my sheets with the other.
“Who's there?" I demanded, trying to get out of bed. The covers got tangled around my feet, though, and I ended up doing a faceplant in the carpet.
This was wrong, I realized as I struggled to free myself from the sheets. That door only opened for me and Kimberly unless we gave it permission. Who was out there, and how had they gotten in? Was it D.K.? Had he found out about how I'd tried to kill him? I managed to stand up, balling my fists to fight even though my head was still thick with sleepiness.
“Whoa, calm down, Sugarsnout!"
I blinked, and lowered my hands.
“Dex?" I asked.
“The one and only," he said back, and now I could make out a shape standing in our doorway. I blinked a couple more times, and my eyes finally adjusted to the light. It was him all right, leaning casually on our door frame, twirling his scepter between his fingers.
“What are you doing here?" I asked, struggling with the usual mixture of emotions I got whenever the Majestic idiots showed up: relief to finally have someone to talk to besides the Swag Pag, and anger for everything they'd done to me, and terror for what might happen next.
Dex laughed and came to meet me. “You really have to ask? I thought this was what you were looking forward to more than anything."
I looked past him, through the door that should have led into the Swag Pag's hallway, but instead saw the Corridor of Doors in Majestic's headquarters. Suddenly, my skin grew clammy, and I felt light headed. I backed up a step and sat down on my bed.
“You don't mean…" I said, looking up at Dex.
“Bingo," he pointed at me. “Time to go take down Hendricks."
I took a moment to collect myself, and then stood up. “All right, let's go."
Dex seemed surprised by this. “That's it? You don't have to get ready? Mentally prepare yourself or something?"
I shook my head and brushed past him to get to the door. “He has my mom, and it's my fault. I have to fix it."
“That's the spirit!" he said in mock enthusiasm, and he followed me. Just before I stepped out of the room, though, a thought occurred to me.
“Wait," I said, stopping. “I guess there is one thing."
Dex smirked. “That's the Amber I know. Don't worry about Kim. She'll be fine."
“Don't call her Kim," I snapped, and looked back to Kimberly's bed where she, against all odds, was still asleep with Blister in her arms.
“Everything Ed told you was true," he said, taking me by the shoulder. “Those idiots can't get in unless she lets them."
“You got in," I said, letting him turn me away from the room and guide me through the door. We stepped into the Corridor of Doors, and she shut the bedroom door behind us.
“I kinda have special privileges, you know?" He fished around his key ring and locked the door. “Now come on, this way."
He turned and led me down the hall at a brisk pace, and I had to hurry to keep up.
“So, what's the plan?" I asked.
“Mr. Wrogan will tell you that when we get there."
“You're going to use me as bait, right?"
“I assume so, but I don't know anything about it either."
“It's going to be dangerous, huh?"
“Would it be any fun, otherwise?"
“So, what do those yellow potions do?"
Dex snorted. “You're gonna have to try harder than that, Sugarsnout."
We rounded a corner, and I lagged a bit behind him so he wouldn't see the glare I was giving him.
“You won't attack me and take one," he cut me off. “You're in the middle of Majestic's headquarters, surrounded by more kinds of magical defenses than you know exist. Besides, if you did that, I think Mr. Wrogan might be a little less enthusiastic about getting your mom back."
I scowled at him again, but he was right. I hadn't actually been planning on trying. That's what I told myself, anyway. I had a ton of things on my plate already. Curing my lycanthropy could come later.
We came to an elevator, which opened before we even got to the door. The moment we stepped inside, the doors hissed shut, and we shot upwards so fast that I had to grab the railing to keep from falling down. The fact that Dex didn't seem to have any trouble balancing, and was even using the chrome wall to pick something out of his teeth didn't help my mood.
“We're going to the board room, right?" I asked when he finally got a piece of meat unstuck from between his incisors and flicked it so it stuck to the wall.
“You're so smart, Amber," he said, smirking at me. “How do you do it?"
I crossed my arms. “I can do without the attitude, thank you very much."
He shrugged and put his hands into his jacket pockets. “Yeah, we're meeting Mr. Wrogan in the board room, and he's going to fill us in on his plan."
I watched him for a few seconds, and he started whistling along with the elevator music. “Aren't you worried?" I asked.
“What makes you think I should be worried?"
This time, I shrugged. “I dunno. Taking down a demonic crime boss seems like a big deal, I guess."
He grinned. “For all you know, I could do things like this every other Tuesday. What makes you think tonight is so special?"
“Do you do things like this every other Tuesday?"
“Okay then," I said, and went back to watching the floor counter. “Oh, and today's Friday."
The elevator came to a halt, and the doors opened again to reveal the gigantic room we always went through to see the board of directors. It was empty this time of night, which surprised me. I started walking before Dex could grab my shoulder again, knowing where I was supposed to go without his help. I heard a sound to my right, and looked to see a mop scrubbing the floor on its own on the other side of the room.
“Is that a living mop, or an invisible person?" I asked.
“That is rude," Dex said, walking past me, “and you should be ashamed of yourself."
“Oh, shut up," I grumbled, following him the rest of the way to the huge door. And there, I realized we weren't alone.
“You two took long enough," Victor snapped, and immediately went to work unlocking the door. “One would think catching a dangerous criminal was worth stepping lively for."
“One would think two helpless, underage girls would be worth finding a decent pack for," I said back, crossing my arms defiantly.
He turned the final key and swung the door open. “One would be mistaken."
“Be nice, you two," Dex said, leading the way through the door. “This is supposed to be a happy day, isn't it?"
“I'd be happy if I could shove a flagpole up his—"
“Young ladies should keep a civilized tongue!"
All three of us snapped our heads forward to see Mr. Wrogan standing in the board room door. I don't know about the others, but when I saw the stern glare he was giving us, I looked down at his feet and muttered an apology.
“I'm glad to see you're here, Amber," he said, his baritone voice echoing around the hall. “Come inside, and we'll discuss what we are going to do."
I did as he said, and took a seat at the table. Dexter and Victor stood at opposite sides of the room.
“Where's Ed?" I asked.
“Taking care of a few details," Mr. Wrogan answered. “He'll be joining us before we begin. Now, as I'm sure Dex has already told you, you're here tonight so I can keep my end of our agreement. We have been reaching out into the criminal underworld, and have managed to discreetly get word to Hendricks that you want to bargain for your mother."
“With the only thing I have that he's interested in," I finished for him. “Myself."
He nodded. “Yes, that is the plan. It is fairly simple in concept: he is to meet you in a predetermined place, where he will release your mother if you allow yourself to be taken into his custody."
“Just me?" I asked. “Like, by myself?"
“That is what he needs to believe," Mr. Wrogan explained. “We will be there, but hidden. If he knew that we were going to be there, he would never agree to come."
I nodded, though the thought made me queasy. “Makes sense, I guess. Will I be safe, though?"
Victor laughed. “You're going to make a deal with a demon, you stupid girl. And you're planning on betraying him so he can be arrested. What part of any of this do you think is safe?"
“I said enough!" Wrogan shouted, slamming his palm down on the table. He turned to me. “Amber, you are to keep Hendricks occupied until we are certain that the area is secure, and then we will attack. We are hoping to have no casualties, civilian or otherwise, but I can't guarantee anything."
I slumped down in my seat. “That makes me feel a lot better, thanks."
“We don't have much time," he went on. “Hendricks will expect you to be at the meeting place at the crack of dawn. Are you ready?"
I didn't even have to hesitate before I said, “Yes. Let's get this over with."
Wrogan nodded his approval, and raised his hand to put a new set of clothes on the table.
“Put these on, then meet Victor and Dexter at the elevator."
I pulled the clothes over to me, and took a good look at them. Jeans, a t-shirt, socks, shoes, and a jacket. They looked perfectly, and unexpectedly, normal.
“Are they magic or something?" I asked.
“No," the massive man answered. “But you will look much more natural if you don't show up in your pajamas."
Oh right, I realized. Red Scooby Doo PJs probably weren't part of the demon mafia dress code. I took the clothes and, at a nod from Wrogan, went into the hallway where I found an empty room and changed. They fit perfectly, which was another thing I still wasn't comfortable with— though I guess at this point I shouldn't have been surprised to know that Majestic knew my waist size.
Coming back out, I crossed the large room again and found Dex and Victor waiting at the elevator like Wrogan had said.
“You all ready?" Dex asked.
I took a deep breath to calm my nerves.
“Yeah, let's do it."
NEXT TIME: Amber's on her way to take down the biggest (and only) demon crime lord in the area. What could possibly go wrong? We are now accepting bets…