The way to the Office wasn’t clear. One demon drifted down the street as if going for a leisurely stroll, but Bryan could see three more in the buildings beside it. He had to double back and take the next street over, and two miles later the same thing happened. This time five demons were clustered in the road and sidewalk, chasing the stray car that happened by. Bryan saw them far off enough that they posed little threat to him, but it wasted his time to redirect his route. He could have just taken one of them, allowed them in. It would have saved time. But he had already chosen.
The cops at the Office doors stopped him until he pulled his badge back out. He wanted to shove them out of the way and shout at them: You just saw me you imbeciles. Instead he told them they should come inside; the streets were unsafe. As he darted in the door they gave him fearful looks, as if to say Even the Office guy is panicking.
Not panicking. Just in a hurry. He had three hours to gate time, but the real problem was the Eternal. Maybe he should have pulled its heart out and stuck it in his pocket, but perhaps that would have only drawn it to him. He could have tossed it away somewhere. Whatever. He hadn’t been thinking clearly.
Was he thinking clearly now? He was certainly drunk, had had enough vodka for a normal person to be drunk, but he wasn’t a normal person. He was thirsty as hell though and as he reached quarantine he realized he had a burning cramp in his side that he hadn’t noticed previously. Everything had been about getting here, all his attention on getting here, on getting to his demon.
He snatched up the gamma. It was overjoyed, it was horrified, it was thrilled, it was terrified. Bryan understood.
Now, it begged him.
No, not yet, he told it, shoving it in his jacket.
He had no answer to that. Perhaps it was only habit. It was a very common mistake in his profession to wait.
As he turned to leave the beta screamed desperately in his mind in the voice of his sister.
I lied! I only need to enter you once! I lied!
Bryan ignored it. He had already chosen, had chosen long ago.
When the elevator doors opened on the lobby, they opened on Andrade. She was gasping for breath, having run down the staircase to catch him. He started at the sight of her and backed into the elevator guiltily. She could see what he was like now, how close to the demon, and moreso she could see the demon itself burning a hole in his pocket.
“Where are you going?” she said, though she knew. Her eyes were already filling with tears. Her neck was bandaged.
Without a word, Bryan shoved past her into the lobby.
She followed him as he made his way to the front desk. No one was there. “You can’t. You can’t do this.”
He went behind the desk, into the back room, which had been left unlocked, and grabbed a set of car keys. When he turned back she was blocking the door, tears falling freely now. He went to shove her out of the way again and she thrust her hand into his jacket.
He broke her arm. He didn’t mean to, he just turned on her as if this tiny woman really had the means to take a card from him by force. He snatched her arm and a crack sounded and she screamed and let the card flutter to the floor. All of security ran over, but they were unsure of what to do. Bryan stood at the desk with a ring of people watching him with accusing eyes, and Andrade crumpled before him, her forearm at an angle. Still, she reached for the card, and again in a panic he snatched it from her reach, and then fell before her and grasped her in his arms, failing to baby her broken arm because she cried out again. But he had to hold her one more time, he had to tell her he was sorry, because he never would again.
He couldn’t tell her he was sorry. His voice was caught in his throat.
“Bryan,” she sobbed, grasping him with her good hand, “don’t do it.”
He stood and ran, to the garage, where he found the car matching his keys. His hands were shaking so much he dropped the keys twice, once on the pavement and once on the floor of the car. On the road he realized just how drunk he was, and combined with his rushing he swerved in and out of traffic and miraculously avoided a hundred accidents, even if he did clip the sides of two cars, breaking their side mirrors and his own so that he had none. He jumped at the sight of demons everywhere, though half of them were just his imagination egged on by the gamma, which was convinced that some other demon would get to Bryan before they could make it to the synagogue.
“You’re not helping!” Bryan shouted at it as he dodged another car. Its horn blared at him as he careened around it.