“Love has its place, as does hate. Peace has its place, as does war. Mercy has its place, as do cruelty and revenge.”
– Meir Kahane
“Just go up, keep going up,” Joey said, the repetition becoming a meaningless chant.
Tom was the one who led her now, his desperate need to save Louis, as well as Lenore, driving him on beyond exhaustion and fear.
In her other hand, Joey held the box, the one Kirsty had kept in a clear plastic bag in her purse. Had that been the evidence bag from the scene of her husband’s suicide? Tom had torn it off and left it behind.
“It’s a dead end,” Tom whispered. Releasing her hand, he took her by the shoulders. “There’s no way up from here and these doors are locked. What now?”
Joey didn’t answer. The barrier behind him was moving, opening. Something stirred sluggishly on the opposite wall of the chamber. Tom turned and they both stepped in to see what it was. He took the box from her as if he meant to use it to protect her from the horror before them.
The wall moved. Joey’s fingers covered her mouth as ten eyes opened, not all of them in pairs, and four mouths tried to speak. The fifth, wearing a smile of welcome, was the only whole face. Hanging high over the rest, still tentatively attached to his stretched and torn body, he presided over the others that his flesh held together in a skein of moist crimson.
Tom whispered, “What the…”
“Hell,” Joey finished for him. “This is Hell – it may as well be.”
“We have to get out of here.”
Joey moved closer to the wall. She had seen that face before, in newspaper clippings and in photos while researching Kirsty.
“Trevor… Trevor Gooden?” she called out through her fingers.
“Where is she?” the monstrosity answered. “We wait…”
Tom moved behind her and tried to pull her away. “It’s … alive? Come on, honey. We have to go.”
“Why is he here?” she cried out. “All of them … she said he killed…”
“Who killed? What are you talking about?”
Wrenching herself from Tom’s grip, Joey stumbled up to the wall. She tried not to be sick when more details of the living corpses became clearer in the gloom.
“Trevor! How did they end up here with you? You opened a box, didn’t you – were they with you then?”
The face of Trevor Gooden twisted into a ghastly smile. “I was the last, the greatest piece of her art. She gave them to me – forever. She opened it … Kirsty…”
“Oh my God,” Joey whispered, backing away.
Tom waited behind her. “What does that – thing – mean?” He sounded sick himself.
Joey shook her head, took his hand, and turned her back on the proof of how far Kirsty had already fallen.
Down the dim corridor outside, a figure called her name. She let Tom pull her into a run away from it, hearing the laughter of the Cenobite chasing them in echoes. The thick lens had twirled and telescoped in his head at the sight of her. It was out of place in the ancient halls, but more terrifying to her than any eternal fiend.
Turning down other paths that led them upward again, Joey tried to put the image of Doc out of her mind, but the fearful thought persisted – if he had been sent after her, where was Terri?
They paused for breath at the bottom of a narrow staircase that might lead to Leviathan. If the roving shadows of light on the upper walls weren’t a trick, the steps should go up to the top of the Labyrinth.
“Who was that other Cenobite?” Tom asked. He was staring at the box in his hands. “It knew your name.”
“That’s what happened to Doc, my friend. Lenore wants to become that – or something like him.” Joey leaned against the stone of the stairwell shaft.
“This creature, the one at the house, raised her to want that? My little Renée…”
“Yes.” Her wry smile was half grimace, but she still hoped for the chance to insult the lord of the Cenobites with his nickname again. “I’ve been calling him ‘Pinhead’ for years. Never told Kirsty, though.” The smile faded. “There was a lot she didn’t tell me, too.”
“He’s killed her by now.” Tom handed her the box. “She said you knew how to work this.”
Joey had never changed the configuration into its diamond shape in waking memory, but her fingers accomplished it now without the help of any conscious knowledge. Had Elliott told her how? She couldn’t remember. Holding it in one hand, she reached for his with the other.
“Pinhead won’t kill Kirsty, he’ll turn her into one of them. She’s been fighting him a lot longer than I have, and I think she always knew that was his intention.” Joey bit her lip. “Tom, if Bobbi –”
“She was home. She found Renée and brought her there. If I’d found her first…” The truth of the brutal murder on the news seemed to occur to him as it already had to her. He shook his head. “After running into Marta, I don’t know what to think. When we get back, I’ll search the house.”
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry that –”
“Hush, honey.” Tom leaned in and kissed her forehead before facing the stairs. “You didn’t get me into this. Jack did.” He took a deep breath. “We’ll get the children. Kirsty won’t have thrown herself to that monster for nothing.”
“Your daughter won’t want to come with us,” she whispered. “She’s – in love with Pinhead.”
“I have to try. What did your ghost tell you? There’s good in her. I don’t care what they’ve done to her. I have to, okay? I’ve been trying to get her back for so long.” When Joey nodded, her face wet with tears, he added, “Let’s go.”
They rushed up the steps and something tried to attach itself to Tom before he could stumble away and let Joey up. She saw it and shouted.
“Terri, let him go! You want me!”
“You want him,” the slight Cenobite answered. “So I want him. You can watch him die, and then join him.”
Joey didn’t stop to remember the pretty young girl who had helped her investigate the box, the girl who couldn’t dream. The being that used her body now was a horrid parody of her friend. Raising her hand, the point of the configuration a sharp, wide pick, Joey shoved it into the Cenobite’s back. It entered to the left of the leather-clad spine, making an awful crushed puncture in the body.
The thing that had been Terri screamed. She seemed to explode in a flash of blue lightning.
Tom grabbed her and held her close, his powerful frame trembling. Still clutching the altered puzzle box, Joey lifted her head from his shoulder and gasped. Kirsty’s account of it hadn’t prepared her. Releasing Tom, she turned him to face it, and they both stared in shock over the top of the eternal maze.
Leviathan pulsed and called there, emitting black searchlights over the Labyrinth with a cold omniscience they could feel. It was massive and sentient, and worst of all, it wasn’t against them – it was indifferent to them.
“Well, no mistake – that’s the floating thing we had to find, but … where is Renée?”
Joey pointed down the strange road they were standing on. The distance could be a mile or a year away, but Lenore and Louis were there – and they weren’t alone. Without a word, they clasped hands and began to run.
When they reached the girl holding the child, two Cenobites and a hideous dog creature stood ready to defend them.
“Renée!” Skidding to a stop, Tom held his hands out to the teen that had been his lost daughter. “Don’t go with them, please. I’ve searched for you for too long to lose you now. I love you so much…” Tears clung to his lashes. “Please Renée, I’m your father.”
She looked at him without comprehension. “I am flesh of your flesh, but my father is Elliott Spenser. He asked me not to harm you, and so I will not – but I belong here.”
The girl struggled to her feet, the toddler oddly quiet in her arms. Joey felt a beat of horror. Was Louis alive?
“Lenore,” she pleaded, “If you give Louis to the Cenobites he’ll be killed. Elliott would be grieved. You don’t want to hurt Louis. He’s your brother, and he’s just a baby. Give him to us.”
“You don’t have to do this,” Tom cried out. “Come away with us, both of you. I’ll protect you, and you can grow up together. Please listen!”
“The things you see here – you have no weapon against them. The configuration may destroy the lesser ones, but the Order of the Gash need not fear it. They worship its very substance. As do I.”
“No!” Tom surged forward but Joey fought to hold him back. He paid no attention to the beast that nipped at him from inches away. “You’re not like them. You are human. You are my child!”
“I am judged.” Lenore looked down into the boy’s still face. “Leviathan wants him.”
Her guardians began to move closer, but a sound stopped them. The dog thing still growled, but the Cenobites watched as something that might have been an elevator car rose up from one side of the abyss around them. Lenore moved eagerly toward it.
“What in God’s name is that?” Tom asked in a strangled whisper.
“Lenore, please,” Joey cried out. “If you take Louis with you, he’ll die!” The Cenobites watched them, but didn’t interfere. “Elliott asked you not to harm your birth family.”
The girl glanced back and studied her. “You have spoken to him?”
“Yes, I have. He asked me to help you, and to help Louis.”
“They will take him,” Lenore whispered, facing them again, “but I could still fulfill my promise.”
Joey choked back her tears as the child was offered to Tom. He took the boy from her hands, touching her fingers with his own.
“Renée, I beg you – come with us,” Tom whispered.
“This is the reward I’ve waited for. The Engineer will make me like them and I shall stand at the right hand of the Prince of Hell for eternity.” She turned away again without looking back.
“Stop!” Tom tried to rush after her, but the monstrous dog leaped in front of him.
“The Daughter of Hell will not be hindered,” the female Cenobite said. She and her companion looked up as a ringing peal of dark laughter echoed through the Labyrinth. “The Ponifex summons you, Face. I will retrieve the Toymaker.”
Responding to an order Tom and Joey hadn’t understood, the male Cenobite disappeared.
Torn between watching Lenore and their enemies, neither of them moved for a moment. Then Kirsty’s words, asking her to make her sacrifice worthwhile, rang in Joey’s mind, making her turn away to oppose the remaining Cenobite as Lenore stepped inside the narrow chamber.
Tom’s cries of anguish made her look in that direction just as the chamber began to drop, circling slowly out of sight.
Her stomach lurched, seeing the arcane instruments that pierced the girl’s body, sucking out blood and replacing it with some nameless dark fluid. Lenore didn’t scream – the torture seemed to make her writhe with ecstasy as she was taken away from them.
“It is rebirth for her,” the Cenobite explained. “She will soon have the power to match her devotion.”
Joey gripped the configuration, disgust twisting her expression. “She could have had…”
“What? A human life? Love?” The creature laughed. “She wants the Black Pope himself.”
A memory of Bobbi’s tugged at her. She had described a female of dark and arrogant beauty – human, but evil. The woman had come before with the Cenobite, tried to seduce John Merchant into opening a gate to Hell, and threatened Jack when he was a child. The tall being with her bald scalp peeled down from her skull could only be that woman.
“Yes – and the configuration won’t destroy me.”
A crack of deafening sound made Joey wince. Tom stood at her side, holding Louis tightly. He pointed overhead. The massive diamond shape of Leviathan was changing, turning, sections of it showing a dark and gold pattern. The configuration in Joey’s hand was changing with it.
“The Schism is closing,” Angelique said. “You’ll be trapped here forever.”
“I’m not changing the box and neither is that giant thing!” Joey shouted over the noise. “She’s doing it!”
Joey desperately tried to stop the puzzle from changing, to reverse it back to the diamond, but it resolutely transformed into a square again. Angelique’s laughter was chilled, echoing around them.
The hellbeast was eager to attack them, but it didn’t. Was the Cenobite preventing it? She was standing at its hips, well behind the snapping six-inch fangs.
She’s afraid to come too close to us. Maybe the puzzle box can hurt her. It wouldn’t move for her now. Why doesn’t she just take it away from me? She almost seems to be using the animal for protection against us.
The silence reigned for a moment only as the huge puzzle box shape that was Leviathan turned into the form of a cube. Then the clink of metal chains broke the brief quiet.
Joey screamed, but it was Tom who was struck by the hook. A shallow barb, it tore through the skin of his chest immediately. His shout of shock and pain filled Joey’s head as she fought down panic.
Grabbing Tom’s arm, she yanked at him. “Run!”
“No! Renée!” He stared hopelessly at the place where his daughter had sunk into horror.
“When she comes out of that, she’ll kill us, too! We have to save Louis!” Joey moved as if she meant to take the child.
Tom shook his head fiercely. “I’m okay. I’ve got him.” He started to run and Joey ran beside him, away from Angelique and the monster that roared at their escape.
A second chain whipped from the air and caught him in the back. He screamed as it tore free, but kept running.
She’s not throwing them at me, Joey thought frantically. She’s going after him because he’s got Louis. That’s probably why she isn’t setting the beast on us – it wouldn’t know prize from prey. Where the fuck are the stairs? Tom dropped out of sight ahead of her and Joey yelled out his name.
“Here! Don’t fall down them,” he answered. She skidded to a stop just in time to avoid doing exactly that and took the hand he offered her to help her down. “Can they pitch those chains if we aren’t in sight? They came out of nothing!”
“I don’t know, I don’t know!”
They went down the steps as fast as they could. Tom pulled Joey beside him again and they ran down the corridor the way they had come. Louis was crying, his face buried in Tom’s neck.
“What that bitch said – are we trapped?”
“Kirsty must have closed the gate.”
“Closed it! She wanted us to get Louis out!”
“She probably did it to send Pinhead back here. I know that was him laughing. That means she’s still alive!”
“It also means she’s fucked us over!” he shouted as they ran.
“No, I can’t believe that,” Joey said, panting for breath. She wouldn’t. Kirsty wants to beat them, I know it. The memory of Trevor Gooden loomed in her mind, but she pushed it aside. I don’t care what she’s done. She knows Louis is the key, and if she’s alive, she’ll help us – somehow. “She can open the gate again.”
“Doesn’t that mean more of those monsters would be there to attack her?”
“Kirsty will find a way, she won’t give up. She wants to save Louis to save the bloodline!”
Joey noticed the chamber as they passed it, the room where Kirsty’s husband waited for her. The doors were still open. With a shudder, she took it as a sign they were on the right track and kept running. Rounding the next corner, she collided into Tom’s broad back.
Then she heard the sounds: the cracking of Leviathan, configuring back into a diamond. A gate was opening somewhere – but another noise killed her elation. Barely noticeable under the din above, her journalist ears heard it – the whir of a camera lens. Looking around Tom’s shoulder, she paled at the sight of Doc.
“Finally chasing that story, Joey? Let me help you. I promised.”
“Renée said the box could kill these – isn’t he one of the ones like that Terri?” Tom plucked the screaming child from his arms to Joey’s, taking the box from her.
“Yes, but – Oh, God…” Another Cenobite appeared behind Doc: the thick maimed bartender who breathed fire. “We have to find another way.”
She turned to retreat and Tom followed. They ran back past Trevor’s chamber again until their way was blocked – by Angelique and the hellbeast. Behind her was J.P., the former owner of the doomed Boiler Room club, leering as always. Pressed on both sides, Joey found her back against open air. With a cry, she ran into the chamber and straight up to the thing that had been five different people.
“Don’t look baby,” she whispered. Trying to soothe the boy, she turned his head into her hair.
“Stay there,” Tom said from the door. “I’ll try to hold them off.”
“No, they’ll kill you to get to us! Tom, please!” She looked up at the eyes that stared down. “Trevor, will you help us? Is there another way out?”
“The strong will forces the configuration,” he whispered, smiling down at her.
“I don’t understand. Please…”
Tom joined her and started searching along the dark walls for a door, but they both froze when footsteps stopped in the doorway.
“Caught like rats,” Doc’s voice gloated.
Joey glanced over her shoulder, trembling, and saw Angelique shove Doc back.
Tom moved in front of her as she sank down against the stone, using her body to shield Louis. Drops of blood from the mural of corpses fell into her hair and onto her white t-shirt. She closed her eyes and waited for the chains.
A cry was torn from her when she heard metal strike flesh. The puzzle box fell with a clatter across the floor. Her eyes opened, staring up at Tom’s outstretched and hooked forearm – but the chain dangled from it, its loose end writhing on the stones as he swayed, fighting shock.
Angelique had left the doorway. They could hear her ordering the others to attack, but none of the Cenobites entered to threaten them. Tom knelt down, almost falling, and collapsed beside her. Shifting the crying child, Joey reached out and touched the hook. He hissed as she drew it out, unable to avoid tearing the skin further when the barb came free. Joey tossed it away from them in disgust, nausea threatening.
Trying to control his breathing, Tom whispered, “Something’s happening out there.”
She lifted her head. Peering around Tom, she shuddered as J.P. stepped into the chamber. The Cenobite opened his mouth to speak, and screamed.
Shocked, Joey saw a black object erupt through the body. J.P. toppled, and then fell forward on his face. The white gleam of his head, already punctured by the machine that clicked and moved, cracked with the impact. Something dark and wet began to leak onto the floor as the machine in his brain ground down to a halt.
Standing in the door was a silhouette, holding the rough spear that had felled the Cenobite. In the other hand was a glitter of scarlet and gold. The figure leaned over to pick up the box Angelique had tried to take from Tom. Inexplicably, before grasping it, the hand tossed the red-gold object it had held at their feet. Turning away with the box they had used, the figure disappeared.
Gold flashed as the new box fell – another cube. It rolled irradically to a stop, sticky with drying blood. Feeling faint, the fear of being trapped in Hell making her sick, Joey picked it up.
She struggled to rise. Tom helped her, taking Louis in his arms again. Moving forward cautiously, still holding the gory puzzle box, Joey rushed to the door. For miles in either direction, the halls of stone stretched on, unchanged and curving into infinity.
Overhead, the tortured voice of Trevor laughed with delight. “Kirsty…”
Joey felt dizzy. Clutching at the door, she turned to see J.P. dissolving into the stones. A ripple of weakness struck through her and she fell over in a faint.
~ ~ ~
Tiny hands were petting her hair. Joey opened her eyes and saw Tom staring at her upside down. For a horrific moment, she thought he’d been put in the wall to bleed with the others.
“It’s okay, we’re safe, I think. I hope – but we have to get out of here. That female Cenobite could still come back. She ditched the others.”
The child’s hands left her. Tom had picked Louis up. Joey rolled off of his lap and sat up.
“Kirsty’s gone,” she whispered.
“She left the doors open, and dropped off one of those, at least – since she took ours.”
Joey held the box to her chest, heedless of the smearing blood. “Did she go back?”
He stood and held out his hand. “We have to go. Bobbi said there were all sorts of these things and if there’s … any chance she’s alive…”
Joey swallowed and nodded. Taking his hand, she followed him to the doorway and waited while he checked the hall. One final glance at the grisly wall showed all ten eyes watching her. Sickened, she studied the puzzle box instead.
This is the one Bobbi had, the one I tried to bury in concrete years ago – which means, Kirsty gave us the box that she used to open the gate. Was she giving us the way out? She wouldn’t have cared about keeping the one Trevor gave her. This is not a woman interested in sentimental keepsakes – just gory undead ones… I don’t know what that is about, but I want the opportunity to ask. Why didn’t you stay with us? Kirsty – I hope to God you went back.
“Joey, look! It’s changing!”
To their right, the endless corridor had decided to end. Where the stones had marked another curve, a gate now stood in a dead end. Light and color leaked through it from their own world. Without another word, they headed toward it.
Footsteps sounded behind them. Expecting Angelique, Joey looked back and moaned. The figure that stood there wasn’t tall. Half of it was so white it appeared almost blue in the dim light. The other half was a bloody and skinless abomination.
“The Toymaker cannot leave this place.”
Tom turned at the sound of that voice. Joey didn’t hesitate. She began to solve the puzzle Kirsty had given her, to save their lives from the terrifying image of the transformed girl they had tried to save.
“Renée, my God… My little girl… Please, no.”
“Tom, come on – just a little farther. I can close it and she won’t be able to hurt us.”
The laughter was similar to Angelique’s, but higher. The voice was full of cruel mockery. “I promised not to hurt you,” she crooned, “but I must bring Lemarchand’s child to my lord.”
Tears fell down his face. “Renée, I love you… I’m so sorry, my baby…”
Joey might never have gotten him through the gate without the chains. The Cenobite that had been Lenore, had been his little girl Renée, seemed intent on hauling him to her with six chained hooks in his flesh. Yet it woke him from his shocked and grieving stupor. With Louis screaming in his arms, he yanked himself back brutally, pulling the hooks through his skin and freeing himself to run.
Grabbing his arm with her free hand, Joey helped him stumble through the gate where he fell in a heap, cradling the child protectively in a cage of bleeding chest and arms. Joey followed, frantically working the box.
Clawed hands groped for her, one of them a thing of glistening red muscle and white tendons. Another twist, a final turn, and it was done. She froze and stared, inches away, as the Cenobite screamed into her face seconds before the gate closed.
~ ~ ~
“Kirsty’s not here.” Joey sank onto the arm of the couch. They had searched in silence, but neither of them had spoken it aloud. “We’ve locked her inside.”
Tom was on his knees fishing through the fireplace with the poker. Joey looked around in a daze. The living room was a scorched mess, with an ugly burn over most of the parquet floor. How the whole house hadn’t gone up, she couldn’t tell. Marks made by the discarded cleaver were everywhere, and the ashes were full of blackened bones.
At the opposite end of the couch, the precious baby they had fought to save was curled up asleep on his back in a pile of blankets. Neither of them could cope with leaving him in the nursery alone. In between, and still far too close, the puzzle box sat on a piece of her torn shirt. She had been terrified to wipe off the blood, or to touch it at all unless she meant to open it.
Tom had told her to take one of Bobbi’s shirts, and it felt strange to wear the white linen blouse as she sat in the woman’s home not far from her desiccated corpse.
“What was that mangled monster on the wall – you talked to it, you seemed to know…”
“Trevor Gooden was Kirsty’s husband. When I told you about the Cenobites, it … wasn’t everything I know, but the rest was her business. Officially, Trevor murdered the four people who were … a part of him there. Then he tried to take her with him in a suicide attempt over a bridge in their car.”
“I don’t know. His being there … like that … made no sense.” I guess she killed him – was it self-defense? She’s a good person, I know it, but you end up in the Labyrinth when … a Cenobite takes you there. He could have opened a box, but he said she did, he said she…
“I know what she used as a weapon.”
Joey startled and then sighed. Her weapon had to be the car, the bridge. She couldn’t have used the Cenobite somehow, she wouldn’t… “What was it?”
Bobbi and the housekeeper were dead, and Kirsty would be if she wasn’t already, but for a moment, all Joey could feel was how exhausted she was.
“It was bone – femur – and there are lots of them here. Smaller, but they’d probably still work.”
“You’re not thinking of going after Renée. There’s no cure for that.”
“I know.” The same expression came over his face that he’d had when they found Bobbi. “What about Kirsty? She’s probably gone. If they come back, someday … we could use these.”
The Cenobites won’t stop – the nightmare might never be over. Joey’s tears threatened. Kirsty just wanted to be left alone – I dragged her back into the black past that had already destroyed both of our lives. Now she’s trapped, wandering the Labyrinth killing Cenobites. It made no sense, and thinking about it only made her feel lost. “She’s the one tilting at windmills, now.”
“Something she said once.”
Joey studied his shirtless torso and torn jeans. He was covered with unprofessional bandages and in a lot of pain, but none of the wounds would kill him. The need for first aid had given her a brief distraction from the truth.
Kirsty could have walked away. She didn’t. No matter what she did to Trevor or why … she defied the Cenobite. She went back in there and killed them to save us. “Anyway, you can’t go back.” She forced her breathing to be even, swallowed hard, and met his worried gaze. “You can’t because I’m going to.”
“You have to get Louis to a safe place.” She rose and found her purse in the wreckage, pulling out her house keys. With shaking fingers, she set them on the couch by the purse. “Use my condo. When I get her out, we’ll come straight to you.”
“I can’t let you –”
“You can barely walk; how will you stop me?” She bent to pick out one of the cooling black bones from his gruesome pile that had a sharp point.
Tom’s hand closed over her wrist. “You have to stay.”
“She went back in to save us all. I pushed her into this, Tom. I wouldn’t let it drop because I wanted revenge. All she wanted was to live. I can’t leave her in there.”
“She has a puzzle box.”
“It won’t let her out. I think she gave us the one we could close on purpose. Maybe she knew about – that one of them was coming to stop us.”
He released her wrist and sagged, gutted by finding and then losing his daughter, losing her to that.
Joey felt tears on her cheeks as she spoke softly, “Her puzzle box won’t work in there. If it did, Cenobites could come and go whenever. I tried it with ours – it didn’t do a thing.”
Going to the baby, she picked him up. He didn’t wake. “He’ll be safer in the nursery – I don’t want him in sight when the gate opens.” Taking him out of the room, she laid him down in his crib and kissed his forehead. When she could move, she left the door open a crack and walked away.
“She wasn’t in a hurry to leave,” Tom called out to her, fear and anger in his shaking voice. “Don’t throw your life away!”
Moving away from him, she used the bloody scrap of her shirt to pick up the puzzle box. They still weren’t sure who or what had been butchered and burned in front of the fireplace, but the blackened and shriveled state of Bobbi’s corpse had made her wonder.
“Don’t call any police. Just drive to my condo. When this is all over, there are things here we can’t lose track of. When it’s safe, we’ll come back and get them – for Louis.”
“How can you survive in there? We barely got away.”
“I have these.” She brandished the jagged bone knife and the box in one hand, not letting them touch. “I have what Kirsty has – my rage, my need to make it right … somehow. Not everyone in there is an enemy. Trevor Gooden probably opened that chamber door – he helped us. Elliott is in there, in some way – maybe he can help. As for Kirsty … they ran from her – the ones she didn’t kill.”
“What if you open it again and what comes through is…”
On his knees before her, wounded and bandaged arm outstretched to implore her, he broke her heart. The care and fear for her in those shining eyes, wet with tears, made her gasp. She stepped close enough to touch fingertips to his.
Joey let her tears fall. She almost crumbled. Taking a deep breath, she let it out slowly, reaching for a calm she couldn’t feel. “She would return to Pinhead. That’s where she wants to be. It won’t be her.” Closing her eyes for a moment, she breathed again, deep and slow. “He’ll send someone connected to me – I know it.”
Stepping back, she gave him a sad smile. “I have to.”
Tom bowed his head, his hands fisting on his thighs. “Be careful. I can’t do this, live with this … without you.”
“Louis is all that matters.”
“No.” He looked up at her. “You matter to me. Joey, you have to … come back to us.”
She wanted to hold him, reassure him – but if she moved, her trembling resolve and cracked courage would break.
“I will,” she whispered.
Stuffing the scrap of shirt into her pocket, she turned away from him. “Grab one of these,” she said, transferring the bone underneath her arm to hold it so that she could work the puzzle box.
As he struggled to rise, she fought not to turn, not to see him one more time. In her fingers, the puzzle box moved and transformed, almost as if it was eager. The chimes began to play. Her stomach dropped as she held the box down by her side and gripped the weapon, holding it out in front of her.
“Whatever comes through the gate…” Joey faltered when she saw it start to form in a different spot in the room. Gasping in a breath, she turned to face it. “No matter what it is or what it says – kill it.”