“Daddy?” Azure asked half asleep. Her head was resting against Xander’s chest. “When’re you gonna go ‘way?” Xander ran a hand through her dark blue curls and closed his eye. He took a deep breath, letting his senses fill to overflowing with her. She still smelled a little like an infant. Unspoiled. New.
“Soon, Azure.” Xander whispered against her ear “Very soon.”
“And I gotta stay with Angel and Spike?” her small arms tightened around Xander.
“You like Spike and Angel…don’t you?” Xander asked anxiously.
“Spike’s funny,” Azure said and Xander could feel her smile against his chest “Angel…“ the smile turned into a frown “gets sad sometimes.”
“Everybody gets sad sometimes,” Xander said.
“Wouldn’t get sad if they had a puppy,” she said hopefully.
“Still talking about the puppy?” Xander smiled and kissed the top of his daughter’s head.
“They’re soft and smell good,” Azure mumbled on the brink of sleep.
“Yeah,” Xander nodded in agreement “You smell good too.”
“’M not a puppy,” she giggled.
“No, you’re my baby girl.” Xander pulled the blanket closer around them.
“Can’t I just go with you, Daddy? When you go ‘way?” she pleaded.
“No, Sweety.” Xander sighed “You need to stay here and make sure Angel and Spike don’t get too sad when I go away… Can you do that for me?”
“Okay,” Azure said and fell asleep.
The hotel was quiet. Angel could hear Azure snoring softly upstairs. The sheets moving as she turned around and mumbled almost inaudibly.
“Has he eaten anything today?” Angel asked.
“Ate some bread. Threw it all up again,” Spike was looking at the pictures Azure had been drawing all day. One was of Angel, the little stick man was actually frowning.
“He’s losing weight again,” Angel sat down next to Spike on the couch “For a few weeks he actually gained some weight."
“How much longer?” Spike asked and put the drawings on the small table next to the couch.
“Spike, don’t.” Angel begged quietly.
“Ain’t like we can pretend it won’t happen,” Spike leant his head back, resting it against the couch. He stared at the ceiling and listened to Xander move around in his room. The faint clink of the paint bucket. Xander was humming quietly. A happy little melody.
“I don’t think I can do it,” Angel whispered and seemed to curled in on himself, white knuckled fingers clinging to the armrest.
“Ya promised!” Spike growled and stood up abruptly, pointing an accusing finger at the older vampire. “You can’t back out now,” he hissed “He’s counting on you. You bloody well promised him you’d do it.”
“I know…Don’t you think I know that?!” Angel stood up an started pacing back and forth. “I just don’t think I can.”
“That’s not good enough,” Spike said moving so he stood in Angel’s way “I won’t allow you to fuck up his last moments with your damn uncertainty.”
“I wouldn’t,” Angel shook his head.
“No, you’d just deny him his last wish.” Spike pushed Angel back a few steps. “You backing out on your promise about taking care of the little Bit?” Spike’s eyes were golden but his face still human.
“No,” Angel said “No!”
“So you just can’t do…?” Spike asked, his voice gentler.
“I can’t, Spike.” Angel looked away “I just can’t.”
“Xander?” Spike asked quietly not wanting to disturb the human. Xander was standing in front of the white wall, writing names with black paint.
“Yeah?” Xander said, turned around and looked at the two vampires.
“We need ta talk,” Spike said and glared at Angel.
“Okay,” Xander said and turned back around “I’m just gonna…” he started writing the last letters of the name he had been finishing when they entered the room.
“I can’t do it!” Angel blurted out suddenly. Xander’s hand jerked violently making the last letter in Cordelia’s name crooked and slightly tilted. The paint brush hovered over the crooked a and Xander’s breath hitched.
“We’ll leave tonight,” Xander said, bent down and carefully placed the paintbrush on the edge of the paint bucket.
“God damn it!” Spike growled and slapped Angel in the back of the head. “Wanker can’t do it but I will.” Spike stepped closer to Xander. “Still going through with this only I’ll do the draining cause mister All-soul-having-bastard can’t do it.”
Xander’s knees buckled in and Spike reached out for him, drawing the shaking body into the safety of his arms.
“I’m sorry,” Xander mumbled “I’m sorry.”
“Go ‘way,” Xander mumbled and pushed a hand against…fur?
“What?” Xander opened his eye and looked into a pair of brown puppy eyes. The puppy’s pink tongue was hanging out of its mouth as it panted happily.
“Daaaddddyyyyy!” Azure squealed “Spike gave me a puppy! A real puppy!” She jumped onto the bed and hugged the dark brown puppy. “She really likes me, Daddy.” Azure giggled and kissed a floppy puppy ear.
“Hope that’s all right?” Spike said from the door. The vampire was leaning against the doorframe.
“Yeah,” Xander nodded and slowly sat up. He stopped, reached up and pressed the palm of his hand against his forehead.
“Are you dizzy?” Angel asked as he walked into the room. The tall vampire hovered by the bed.
“Just a little,” Xander said and pinched the bridge of his nose “It’ll pass. It always does.” Xander turned his attention to Azure’s happy babble.
“I wanna call her…” Azure looked thoughtful “Puppy,” the little girl said and frowned at Spike when he snorted.
“Well,” Xander said and smiled “She won’t be a puppy forever, you know.”
“Oh,” Azure said and looked up at Angel “You wanna name her?” she asked him.
“Oh…um…I’ve never named an animal before,” Angel said and looked slightly panicky.
“Could call her Pretty?” Spike suggested.
“Pretty…” Azure said the name slowly as if trying it out.
Xander looked at the puppy. It looked right back and tilted its small head. Xander reached out and ruffled its fur. “Could call her Omega,” Xander said, his voice almost a whisper.
“Omega,” Azure said and hugged the puppy again “I like that, Daddy.” She jumped down from the bed, her baby blue dress falling into place. “Come, Omega. I wanna show you my room.” The little dog barked once and tumbled off the bed as it followed the giggling girl.
The room was quiet for a few seconds, only Xander’s breathing could be heard.
“Omega,” Angel said quietly.
“The end,” Spike mumbled and closed his eyes.
Xander was in the middle of writing a new name on the wall when he suddenly felt nauseous. He dropped the paintbrush on the lid of the paint bucket and hurried over to the bathroom. He only just made it to the toilet before he lost his lunch.
He sat there, on the floor, for a few minutes. His head resting against the toilet seat. Xander opened his eye then closed it again. There was blood in the toilet. Not much. No more than there had been the previous three days but still…it was blood. Another sign that time was running out.
He slowly stood up, bracing himself against the sink, and made sure to flush the toilet at least a few times. No reason to worry Angel and Spike. They worried too much as it was.
Azure was asleep on the couch. Her head resting in Spike’s lap. Omega, the puppy, curled around her feet. Xander was sitting in one of the more comfy chairs. He closed his eye and breathed deeply.
“We need to talk about…” Angel said from his position on the floor. The dark-haired vampire was sitting with his back against the side of Xander’s chair.
“About?” Xander asked and ran his hand through Angel’s hair. It was surprisingly soft.
“We could just turn you,” Spike said and brushed a dark blue curl out of Azure’s face. The little girl scrunched up her face and wriggled her toes, making Omega curl up closer to her.
“No,” Xander said and rested his hands in his lap. “I already told you. No turning, no magic.”
“But if we turned you and then…” Angel began but Xander interrupted him.
“And then what? I wait a few years for Azure to get old enough for me to start worrying about her dying of old age or, God forbid, disease. Then what? I turn her too?” Xander stood up and looked down at Angel. “I’m human. We die. It’s what makes us human. That we don’t have…forever. We’re fragile. I used to resent that. Buffy was the Slayer, Willow was a witch…They were all something more than human. More than me. But…”
Xander sighed and ran a shaking hand through his hair “But what I didn’t get was that…being human… being mortal and fragile is what makes us…strong. I couldn’t imagine living forever. No expiration date. No end of the road. Forever to do…anything…nothing. I don’t want to mess with nature. I’ve always been human. I think…” Xander looked from Angel to Spike, his eye finally resting on his sleeping daughter. “I think I’d like to end that way too.”
The wall was almost covered in names. Xander looked around the room and smiled. Apparently one wall wouldn’t be enough.
“What about after…after it’s done?” Spike asked Xander. They were standing in what had previously been Xander’s room. It had been stripped. The bed and the rest of the furniture were gone. The walls, the ceiling and even the floor had been painted white. Names already covered two of the walls and part of the ceiling.
“After?” Xander asked and looked back at Spike as he finished writing yet another name.
“When you’re dead,” Spike clarified.
“Burn me,” Xander said “I’ve seen too many zombies, too many fledges. I don’t want there to be anything left to resurrect.”
“Sunnydale born and breed,” Spike smiled.
“Yeah,” Xander grinned.
Xander looked at his daughter. She was sitting on the floor, her blue hair tumbling over her eyes as she concentrated on writing her own name. She was nibbling on her lower lip and frowning in deep concentration.
“Look, Daddy.” She held the paper up so Xander could see her masterpiece. The a was huge and seemed to wobble, leaning against the z and the u was scrunched up between the z and the r. She had even attempted to write her last name. Next to Azure stood Hrise.
“ Looks good, Sweety. But here...let me help you with Harris,” Xander smiled, took the blue pen and wrote Harris. “There. You see? You were missing some letters,” Azure nodded and took the paper and started practicing again. Her pink tongue trapped between her teeth.
“Angel said we were gonna eat all your favourites tonight, Daddy.“ Azure said as she dotted the i.
"He did?” Xander sat down on the floor next to Azure.
“Uh huh,” she nodded and looked thoughtful “Can we go to the park tomorrow, Daddy? Just you and me and Omega?” the puppy looked up, from it position next to the couch, when it heard its name. The dog started wagging its tail.
“No, Azure.” Xander said and pulled the little girl close “I can’t go with you to the park tomorrow.” Xander whispered against her curls.
“But can we go some other day?” Azure cuddled closer.
“You could ask Angel or Spike,” Xander suggested “You’ve never been to the park after dark, have you?” Azure shook her head. Her dark blue hair brushed against Xander’s lips.
“You ready?” Spike asked and turned his attention to the older vampire.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be ready,” Angel said and put Azure’s plate on the table.
“No way back now,” Spike murmured.
“No,” Angel nodded as he stared at the grinning cartoon characters on the little girl’s favourite glass.
“Thanks,” Xander said as he watched Angel and Spike clear the table. Azure was playing in the lobby. The happy giggling and barks easily heard in the kitchen.
“Was just food,” Spike said and shrugged.
“I wasn’t talking about the food,” Xander said and looked down at his hands.
“Why didn’t Snow White just kick the evil stepmother’s butt?” Azure asked and looked uncertainly at her father.
“Well, the prince had to kiss her and save her so they could live happily forever and ever,” Xander said and pointed at the picture of Snow White and the prince.
“I bet Spike could kick her butt,” Azure mumbled and closed her eyes. Xander held her close and smiled.
“I’m sure he could, Honey.” Xander kissed the top of her head and mumbled “I love you, Azure.”
“Love you too, Daddy.” Azure murmured as she slowly fell asleep.
“Who else loves you?” Xander asked.
“Toma,” she said and smiled.
“And?” Xander asked.
“Angel and Spike,” Azure sighed against her pillow “And Omega…” she added as she slipped away.
“You ready?” Angel asked quietly, not wanting to wake Azure.
Xander slowly disentangled himself from Azure’s arms and climbed out of the bed. He stood there for a minute or so. Memorizing the image of her. Soft dark blue curls spread out on the pillow, pink lips parted, long dark eyelashes. She made a small sound and turned a little in her sleep. Her small hand settling on the pillow Xander had been resting against. Xander leant down and kissed her cheek.
“Don’t grow up too fast,” he whispered and left the room.
Xander entered his bedroom. Spike was sitting on the edge of the bed, his hands limp in his lap, his blond head lowered. Angel stopped right behind Xander, a large comforting hand settling on the human’s shoulder.
“Spike?” Xander took a step closer and Spike looked up “It’s time.”
“Yeah,” Spike nodded.
“How do you want to do this?” Angel asked Xander.
“Could you hold me?" Xander asked Angel, walked over to the bed and sat down next to Spike. Angel looked uncertain but then said
“Anything you want, Xander.”
“Thank you…both of you,” Xander took Spike’s hand and held it. Angel sat down on the opposite side of the bed with his back to Spike and Xander. He was breathing and Xander closed his eye and whispered.
“You can still say no.”
“Won’t,” Spike shook his head and pulled Xander closer.
“Will it hurt?” Xander asked as he lay on the bed, Angel’s arms around him and Spike kneeling on the bed next to them.
“The bite,” Angel said and rubbed Xander’s arm “Nothing else.” Spike reached out and gently took Xander’s hand. He pushed the sleeve of Xander’s shirt away and let his thumb caress the soft skin on the human’s wrist. Spike kissed it and felt the blood rush through the veins hidden under the pale skin.
Spike looked up and said “Xander?”
“I’m ready,” Xander said and smiled. Spike closed his eyes and bit into the skin. Xander gasped and felt Angel tighten his hold around his waist.
It was a strange sensation. Like his heart was trying to pump his blood around his body in one direction while Spike was drawing it in another. Xander’s breath hitched and he shivered. Spike sobbed against Xander’s wrist.
“Shhhh,” Xander cupped Spike’s cheek with the hand resting against the vampire’s face. Spike simply sobbed louder and Xander leant over him and kissed his brow. “Shhhhh.”
“I feel light-headed,” Xander slurred after a few minutes.
“It’s almost over,” Angel whispered against Xander’s ear “Almost.”
“Tell…Azure…” Xander mumbled “Tell…her…tell her…I love her,” Xander said breathlessly.
“She knows, Xander. She’s always known,” Angel said and caressed Xander’s face.
“Make sure…she…doesn’t forget,” Xander sighed.
“She won’t,” Angel promised. Xander sighed one last time and passed out. Spike’s fingers were running soothingly up and down Xander’s arm. After a few more minutes Spike sat up.
“It’s done,” he whispered as if he was afraid of disturbing Xander.
They stood outside the door to Xander’s bedroom. Angel turned and looked down the hallway. At the end of the hall was Xander’s old room. Xander had kept the door locked the last few days. Now Angel could see that it was standing ajar.
They both walked down the hall and paused outside the room. Spike reached out and pushed the door open and walked in. Angel hovered near the door.
“Turn on the light,” Spike said quietly and Angel flipped the switch.
Names from floor to ceiling.
Some places the names even seemed to crawl over the white ceiling as if they were trying to escape. In a spiral the names Rhonda, Kyle, Tor and Heidi framed the word Hyena. Some places the names were evenly spaced out on the wall, other places it seemed as if Xander had remembered more names than he had room for.
“Boy must have written the names of everyone he ever met,” Spike said as he turned around and looked at the walls. Each and everyone of them were covered in names.
“The floor,” Angel said and took a step back. The floor was covered as well. Spike knelt down and let his fingers trace the name Ampata.
“Spike,” Angel’s voice was faint, almost a whisper. Spike stood up and turned. Angel was standing in front of the wall that had started it all.
“He…” Angel said disbelievingly. Spike walked over and stood next to Angel.
Their names were written in black paint.
Framing Azure’s name.
The first time he heard it, Spike was sure he was going crazy. He tried to ignore it. Turned on the radio, stalked out of the Hyperion looking for a spot of violence.
But he wasn’t the only one who noticed. Omega would sit in the hallway, head tilted as if listening for something. The dog would whine almost soundlessly and wander restlessly back and forth. Spike left it out there, walked to his own room, crawled into bed and pulled the covers over his head.
“Daddy’s painting again,” Azure said one morning as they sat at the kitchen table.
“I…um…I don’t know if we should go in there,” Angel said and looked from the closed door to Spike.
“Been weeks since he…Haven’t been in there since, have we?” Spike asked and didn’t look away from the door.
“What if we walk in there and…” Angel whispered.
“Won’t know if we don’t,” Spike pointed out. His long pale fingers wrapped around the door handle and opened the door. The sound of footsteps and the clink of a paint bucket stopped. Both vampires stood as if frozen. The room was quiet. Dead.
“Nothing,” Angel sounded disappointed.
Footsteps. A bucket being moved around. Soft murmuring and humming. It became a nightly routine to open the door to Xander’s old room and say “Night, Xander.”
The sounds would stop the second the door was opened. It wasn’t so much the absence of sound as it was the sound of someone trying to be quiet.
Sometimes Angel would stand there, halfway inside the room, hand clenching the door handle, for a few minutes. As if he was daring the sounds to resume. The second Angel walked out, closing the door behind him, the noises of someone moving around inside continued.
Some nights the sounds would grow in volume and Azure would wake up and go down the hallway, Omega trudging behind her, and she would knock on the door and say “Stop making all that noise. I can’t sleep!”
The sounds would stop and a low humming would start. Spike recognised the melody.
You are my sunshine
Sound of Silence
As they slowly moved through the abandoned building the sounds from the comm-units echoed off the bare walls. Despite the fact that their flashlights gave plenty of light they hovered close together.
“Sergeant,” one of the soldiers said as he silently moved past the other members of their unit.
“Yes, Rodriguez” Sergeant Wolf answered the technician
“The scanner shows signs of body heat somewhere on the first floor,” the soldier said as he fiddled with the small scanner in his hands.
“Any indication of how many?” Wolf turned to the two soldiers bringing up the rear, “Martin and Wright,” he said pointing at the two of them, “I want you to secure the lobby while we check out the scanner.”
“Yes, sir,” Wright said, her eyes already checking out the shadowy corners of the large room.
“I can’t see how many people are on the first floor and this might be a wrong reading anyway,” Rodriguez said.
”A wrong reading?” Wolf leant over the shorter man’s shoulder and looked at the scanner, ”That scanner is new. Shouldn’t it work?”
”The scanner is operating fine,” Rodriguez said defensively.
”Wasn’t mocking your new toy, son,” the sergeant grinned.
”Sorry,” Rodriguez mumbled, ”It’s this place. I’ve never been in this part of town before,” the dark haired man shrugged, ”I’ve heard rumors…and the house is huge. Why’d they build something so big?”
”It was a hotel,” Wolf explained as he looked up to check on the others.
”A hotel?” Hill, who had joined them, asked.
”People used to come here if they were traveling,” Wolf pointed at the staircase, ”They would pay to stay in a room as long as they stayed in town.”
”Must’ve been before they restricted traveling,” Hill said.
”Yeah,” Wolf nodded, ”Long before our time.”
”Before the plague,” Rodriguez added.
”Definitely before the plague,” Hill mumbled as he, uncomfortable with the new topic, walked away to help Martin and Wright secure the lobby.
”So that body heat the scanner is picking up?” Wolf said and tapped the side of the scanner with his flashlight.
”It could be an animal,” Rodriguez started pushing some of the icons on the touchpad.
”All the way out here?” Wolf said disbelievingly, ”Couldn’t be bigger than a rat then.”
”Too big for a rat,” the technician shook his head, ”And it seems to blink in and out of existence.”
”Maybe a broken pipe… steam from the sewers?” Wolf looked up as Martin and Wright made the ‘all clear sign’ from across the lobby.
”Look,” Rodriguez said and pointed to the little screen, ”There it is again.” Wolf watched as a body heat signature appeared on the screen and then disappeared.
”Sir,” Hill said from behind them.
”Yes?” the sergeant turned away from Rodriguez.
”I found these,” the sturdy soldier said and handed Wolf a few sheets of old yellowed paper.
The thin and worn paper started to crumble at the corners when he took them. Wolf looked down at the strange drawings. Three stickmen, a smiling sun, a little stickman with what looked like blue curls…
”Is that a dog?” Hill asked and pointed at the small childish depiction of the animal.
”Yeah,” Wolf felt his throat tighten, ”Yeah, it’s a dog.”
”I’ve never seen a real one,” Hill said excitedly.
”I had one when I was a kid,” Wolf traced the dog with his fingernail as he remembered soft yellow fur and trusting brown eyes
”Really?” Hill sounded astounded, ”I remember my mother talking about dogs and cats…you know…how people kept them as pets before the plague wiped them out…”
”Yeah,” Wolf said tonelessly, ”Where did you find these?”
”In the kitchen,” the soldier said and hooked a thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the kitchen.
”Anything else in there?” the sergeant asked.
”Okay,” Wolf nodded at the small group of soldiers, ”Lets check this heat signature out so we can get out of here. We won’t find anything here anyway but you know how the Captain gets. We’ll check it out and report back. The sooner we’re out of here the sooner we can go through disinfection and go home.”
The staircase creaked under their feet and Hill’s foot went through one of the wooden steps.
”We better stay close to the wall,” Wright said, ”House is at least a hundred years old. Shit could fall down any second.”
”Naw,” Rodriguez said as he clipped the scanner to his belt when they got to the top of the stairs, ”The building is at least three hundred years old.”
”Won’t fall down on your head anyway, Wright,” Martin said as he smiled at her, ”They knew how to build back then.”
”Still,” the young woman hefted her rifle, ”Place creeps me out,” she mumbled, her eyes lingering on a bloody handprint on the wall, a few inches above the sergeant’s head.
”Okay,” Wolf whispered, ”Hill, Wright,” he pointed at the two soldiers, ”When we go inside you come with me. We’ll check out the heat signature.
”I have the precise location now, sir,” Rodriguez passed the scanner to his superior, “Down the hall. Last room.”
Wolf’s only answer was a nod and then they started down the hallway.
The numbers on the doors had fallen off years earlier, leaving shadows behind that looked almost ghostly in the dim light from their flashlights.
A small sound, like the clink of a metal bucket, made the soldiers freeze and grab tightly on to their weapons. The sound was gone as soon as it had appeared, drowned out by their rapidly beating hearts.
A lamp over one of the doors to their right suddenly started blinking. The halo of the yellow light casting long shadows.
“Jesus,” Martin whispered and shuddered, “I thought you said there weren’t any electricity this far out,” the soldier grated out almost accusingly.
“There isn’t,” Rodriguez swallowed nervously.
“Then how the fuck…” Hill hissed.
“Shhh,” Wolf held up his hand and watched as they all heard what he had though he’d only imagined.
Happy, carefree humming.
“Oh, fuck,” Martin murmured, his eyes locked on the soft light streaming out from under the door at the end of the hall.
Wolf handed the scanner to Rodriguez. The shorter man’s fingers shook a little as he used it.
”Nothing,” Rodriguez said and then gave the scanner a hard jab with the side of his hand, ”Useless piece of…It’s not picking anything up,” he reported to the sergeant.
”Okay,” Wolf closed his eyes for a second and then looked back at his unit, ”We’ll have to go in.”
Wolf knelt next to the door and looked down the hallway. Hill and Wright were pressed against the opposite wall with their weapons ready, clutched in white-knuckled hands.
The sergeant reached out and grabbed on to the door handle. He slowly turned it. To his surprise the door quietly opened. The room behind it was shrouded in darkness and the only sounds those of his own heavy breathing.
He waved a hand at Hill and Wright and the two soldiers hurried past him, securing the room. Wolf followed, pausing to nod at Rodriguez and Martin to join them.
“Empty,” Hill said and shone his flashlight around the room.
“What’s that on the walls?” Wright asked, her voice seemed muffled in the dusty room.
“Looks like…” Rodriguez stepped closer to one of the walls. He reached out and let his gloved hand cover some of the writing, ”Looks like names.”
The others stepped closer and watched as the light from their flashlights uncovered once-white walls with faded writing covering them.
”The floor as well,” Hill said and stepped away so he wasn’t standing on the letters.
”This looks like nothing I’ve seen before,” Wolf turned and started reading the words out loud, ”Anya…Tor…Jesse…”
”Wonder who those people were?” Martin knelt down and looked at some of the names written on the floor.
”I’ve seen graffiti before,” Wright said, ”Down on the lower levels…On the subway walls.”
”Yeah,” Rodriguez nodded, ”But usually those were just cusswords. Slurs against the government back when the plague started raging through the population.”
“This is different,” Wolf agreed, “Just names…”
“Maybe it’s a list of people who died during the plague,” Hill suggested.
“Too old,” Rodriguez held up his scanner, ”The writing is at least two hundred years old.”
“What do we do about it?” Martin asked.
Wolf just made a small throaty sound, his attention held by one word written only a two feet up the wall. The letters clumpy and strangely tilting, as if the writer hadn’t been very good at forming them.
The sergeant followed the form of the first letter. The D much bigger than the following letters. It suddenly hit him that a child had written this one single word. Had probably frowned as the letters appeared black on white on the wall. He could almost imagine the child tilting its head as it bit its lip. Trying for perfect and only achieving those wobbly mismatched letters.
“Do we report this, sir?” Martin asked.
“No,” Wolf said as he stood up and dusted off his knees, “There’s nothing to report. Just names on a wall,” he said wistfully and Martin smiled.
“Wouldn’t want to waste the investigators time out here. They’d probably have to take the walls down to check they weren’t missing something,” Hill said and smiled conspiratorially at the others.
“Nothing worth mentioning,” Wright agreed and looked over at Rodriguez.
Rodriguez studied the sergeant for a second and then nodded.
Wolf watched his men walk quietly down the hallway. He turned around and let his flashlight illuminate the walls. He stopped when he reached the wobbly letters two feet above the floor. A crack in the wall separated the word from the others and made it look as if the word had been trapped in the corner of the room.
His lips formed the letters as the light flowed over them.
”Daddy,” Wolf whispered to the empty room and took a step back, closed the door and started walking down the hall.
He turned back when he heard the faint humming resume and smiled as the soft yellow light streamed out from under the closed door.
”Nope,” the sergeant said as he started walking down the stairs, ”Nothing worth reporting.
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