I found myself wishing that Amy had told us about the creature’s talent for manipulating people earlier. We would have had time to come up with a countermeasure. Of course, she may not have known it herself. I had the impression that most of what she knew about The Thing That Eats came from past Bloodmaidens. They had to have their own reasons for choosing when to tell Amy what they knew.
Whatever the case, I had to think of something now.
What could I do? Well, what did I know? It wasn’t magic because Amy’s wards hadn’t stopped it. It wasn’t using whatever sonic frequencies Julie used to affect the human brain because I’d set up our suits to filter those out.
The creature went unerringly for strong emotional reactions whether through intelligence or intuition—which led me to what? Not action.
I got out of my head long enough to hear the tail end of whatever it had been saying to Jaclyn.
“—do you think they’ll treat you any better than their grandparents treated him?”
Jaclyn raised an eyebrow. “You’re forty years too late on that one, and they already do.”
The Thing That Eats pushed itself up with its arms, making the ruin of its legs visible. Flesh, muscle, and bone were knitting themselves together.
It turned its gaze on Amy. “Send Sibyl my best. These wards. This spell. It’s based on her work, isn’t it?”
Amy kept on chanting, ignoring it or too into what she was doing to notice.
Off to my right and reflecting the wards’ red glow, Cassie stood next to the circle, aiming her gun at the creature. “Someone needs to shut that thing up.”
Jaclyn stared at Cassie. “Don’t shoot it. You’ll break the cir—”
Cassie shouted over her. “I know! I listened during the briefing. I’m going to shoot it if the circle breaks.”
The Thing’s too large eyes swiveled, taking in all of us, but stopping at Cassie, Amy, and me. “Interesting.” Nodding toward Cassie, it said, “She loves a man in the plane. The Bloodmaiden likes the same man, but loves this man.” It nodded at me. “He loves the woman flying the plane, but could love others.”
Cassie stiffened. Amy paused in her chanting and the red glow flickered, but steadied when she said the next word.
The Thing That Eats opened its mouth to say more. Deciding I didn’t want to find out what else it had to say, I went with the least complicated idea I had. I found the “bad music” folder in the Rocket suit’s sound list, clicked on The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins, and turned the volume up.
Sixties pop music combined with the sound of Leonard Nimoy’s voice thundered in the night. Not wanting to risk it being considering an attack on The Thing That Eats by whatever rules governed magical circles, I didn’t aim the noise directly at the creature, but aimed it every direction.
Amy’s eyes flashed in my direction, and while I didn’t know precisely what the curl of her lips meant, I guessed that it meant, “What the hell?”
Whatever she was thinking, she kept on chanting, and when The Thing began talking again I couldn’t hear it and most likely none of us could. Well, unless Izzy could hear it, but it didn’t seem to be targeting her. It was looking at me and then at Amy.
When neither of us responded, it began to howl. At least that’s why I thought it howled. In the next moment, I realized it was more than that.
Before my eyes, the creature separated into two. One was simply the body of the man we’d seen before the creature’s change—pale with wrinkled skin and liver spots on his face. The other body was a gray creature with The Thing’s bulbous head and a shadowy, gray body with transparent sets of teeth.
As I watched, the reddish glow of the wards flared as the wards came together in the air, surrounding the shadowy image of the Thing, and then shrinking into a reddish cube.
The cube dropped to the grass, landing next to the body of the host.
We all stared at that for a moment, but then Jaclyn mimed turning a knob. It took a second, but then I realized that turning off the music would probably be an improvement for everyone within half a mile of me.
“Nice selection,” Jaclyn said.
“It’s a leftover from fighting Evil Beatnik. It was that or William Shatner singing ‘Rocket Man’.”
Vaughn’s voice came over the comm, “Either way we’re still risking a retaliatory nuclear strike. Both of those songs are epically bad. Anyway, you guys need to get up here. The Mystic’s been sending the cops and the military in the wrong direction, but they’re going to notice pretty soon…”
I looked up at the jet or at least at the cloud above us that hid it. “We’ll be up in a second. Bloodmaiden’s got to grab the container, but then we’re done.”
“Cool.” Then Vaughn sighed. “It’s going to be a long ride home. I’ve got questions for Amy and Cassie, and uh… you.”
My mind went back to what The Thing had said. With everything that had been happening I hadn’t had time to think about it, but it had basically said that Amy was in love with me and blown what Cassie had told me earlier.
I could see where he’d have questions. I knew I did.