Three blocks later and the feeling not only lingered, but grew like an ominous cloud. Malice and evil filled the streets, seeping into the Yukon, its presence choking. Beads of sweat appeared on Morris’s creased forehead.
“You feel it now, don’t you?” I gripped the edges of my seat. “Morris?”
He nodded, gaze sharp as he veered around a slow-moving truck and then cut in front of it, hitting the exit ramp. Two cabs were right behind us, plus a whole slew of cars were also entering the beltway.
The malicious feeling hung thick and murky. So potent that it felt as if whatever was causing the suffocating feeling was in the backseat, breathing down our necks. That was a feeling of raw evil, something I’d never picked up on around a Fiend.
“Morris. I think we need to hurry up and get home.”
He was already on it, foot slamming down on the gas as he weaved in and out of the congested traffic. Twisting around in my seat, I peered out the back window—and my heart tripped.
Behind us, a cab was so close I could see its silver cross dangling from the rearview mirror. The fact that the cabbie was inches away from kissing our rear end wasn’t a big deal; cabbies were insane when it came to city driving. No, it was the driver behind the wheel that sent a shot of fear straight through me.
Now I knew where the bad feeling was coming from.
The space around the hunched driver was blacker than any shadow, thick like oil. Thin slivers of silver, tiny specks of humanity, peeked through the darkness of his soul, barely there. His soul spread out from him, seeping through the front of the taxi, slipping over the dashboard and crawling over the window.
“Oh, my God,” I whispered, feeling the blood drain from my face. “The driver’s possessed!”
As soon as the words left my mouth, Morris wrenched the steering wheel to the right. A horn blared. Tires squealed. He slammed down on the brakes, whipping me around as he narrowly avoided clipping the back end of a delivery truck. A series of quick maneuvers later, and several cars were between us and the possessed cabdriver.
I stared at Morris. “Damn. For an old man, you sure know how to drive.”
Morris kept a tight grip on the steering wheel, but he smiled in acknowledgment.
A second later, we were on our exit ramp, flying down the road. The Yukon fishtailed as he hung a quick right, and I shrieked, grabbing the “oh, shit” handle. Then the heavy vehicle lurched forward as he put the gas pedal all the way to the floor. We hit the narrow two-lane stretch of private road at breakneck speeds.
And we weren’t alone.
The taxi was gaining on us, and then it was in the other lane, going in the wrong direction, inching up on us. My heart jumped in my throat as I stared into the taxi.
The blackness of the man’s soul faded, revealing a pale, empty face. The human was on autopilot, completely under the thumb of the demon that had possessed him. Possession, next to murder, was one of the worst crimes, and it was forbidden according to the Law of Balance. Humans lost all free will once a demon breathed its essence into them, possessing them. Only Upper Level demons could possess humans.
Roth? Seemed likely, since he was the only Upper Level demon I’d seen, with the exception of the one that had moved too fast for me to be sure. Dread filled my stomach like lead. Had Roth possessed this man because I’d refused to stop tagging? If so, I’d just put Morris’s life in danger. Anger and guilt swirled inside me, causing my hands to clench until my nails bit into my palms.
Suddenly the taxi was speeding alongside us. Like a pro, Morris kept his gaze trained forward, but a scream built in my throat. My muscles tensed, as if my body already knew what to expect.
Morris swerved. Two wheels went off the road, crunching over dirt. But—oh, God—he was too late. I squeezed my eyes shut, terror seizing me in its tight grip.
The taxi slammed into us.
The impact was deafening.
Metal crunched and gave way in an explosion of white that sent me sideways and then snapped me back. A second before the airbag smacked into my face, I saw a blur of trees rushing toward the front of the car.
God bless Morris, because somehow, even with an airbag in his face, he turned that steering wheel, spinning the vehicle around so the back end instead of the front slammed into the thick trunk of an ancient tree. But the impact was no less brutal, throwing us backward.
When we finally stopped moving, I was sure I was going into cardiac arrest.
“Morris. Morris!” I pushed at the deflating airbag, coughing as white dust plumed. “Are you okay?”
He leaned back, blinking several times as he nodded. White powder caked his cheeks, but other than a trickle of blood under his nose, he looked fine.
Turning my attention to the other car, I unhooked my seat belt with shaky fingers. The entire front of the cab was a mass of twisted, crunched metal. A body-sized hole was in the windshield. Splotches of a dark red substance coated the edges of the broken glass and splattered the hood.
“Oh, God,” I said, letting the seat belt smack back. “I think the other driver was ejected.”
Scrambling for my bag to get my cell, I smacked at the damn airbag. I needed to call for help—something. Even though the cabbie had hit us, he was possessed and totally not responsible for his actions. He was an innocent human being, and I had to do something. Traffic didn’t come down this road often—
A bloodied, mangled face appeared outside the passenger window. I jerked back, swallowing a scream. Nausea rose swiftly. The face—oh, God—the face was a wreck. Pieces of glass were embedded in his cheeks. The flesh was torn. Rivulets of blood coursed down his face like rain. One eye appeared almost gouged out. His lower lip...it was barely hanging on and his head was bent at an unnatural angle. Dude should be dead, or at least in a coma.
But he was still up and walking.
He grabbed the handle and pulled, tearing the Yukon door right off its hinges. He flung it aside and then reached in, bloodied hands shooting straight for me.
One of Morris’s arms came around my shoulders as I scrambled out of the seat, but the damn possessed kept coming. Leaning back against Morris, I brought my knees back and slammed both my feet into his ragged shirt, knocking the man back.
The possessed popped back up, determined and single-minded. His hand wrapped around my ankle as I kicked out again, and he yanked, pulling me out of the car. Blood bubbled out of his mouth—out of the freaking hole in his throat.
I screamed and slapped my hands down wildly, wrapping them around the gear shift. For a second, my body went up in the air, half out of the Yukon as the possessed pulled like he was willing to rip me clear in two.
Morris shot forward, yanking the glove box open. There was a flash of shiny, black metal and then an explosion rang through the interior of the car. The possessed jerked and let go. I hit the seat and center console on my side. Dull pain shot through my body. Acrid smoke burned my eyes.
The possessed stood still, eyes glazed over, with a bullet hole dead center in his forehead. Then his head fell back and his mouth opened. An inhuman cry escaped him—a cross between a screaming baby and a dog’s whine.
Red smoke poured out of the gaping mouth, filling the air with its filth and stench. It kept coming until the last tendril snaked out and a cloud of rolling smoke formed. The possessed toppled over, but the cloud continued to expand. Shapes formed inside it. Fingers and hands pressed out, as if something was seeking a way to escape.